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The economy is refusing to die — which may mean it’s time to go risk-on

source-logo  cointelegraph.com 10 October 2023 23:06, UTC

The United States economy seems like it is refusing to be derailed. It added a staggering 336,000 jobs in September, defying most expectations. This achievement becomes all the more remarkable against the backdrop of soaring yields on longer-term Treasury bonds and surging mortgage rates.

The message embedded in the job data is crystal clear: the world’s largest economy continues to charge forward, even in the face of aggressive monetary tightening. It’s a testament to the economy’s resilience, and suggests that higher interests are here to stay for an extended period.

While this news could send shivers down some spines, particularly for those invested in stocks, it’s crucial to understand the bigger picture. Stocks may appear less enticing when you can secure a 6% return with a savings account, yet we may be reaching an inflection point with bonds.

It has to get worse before it gets better

The bond market has witnessed a historic rout, described by Bank of America Global Research as the “greatest bond bear market of all time.” But the analysis isn’t all doom and gloom — there are hints that the relentless sell off in U.S. Treasuries could come to an end. And if we do indeed see a recovery, it could signal the start of a new bull market for risk assets.

Turning to crypto, it’s crucial to recognize that short-term Bitcoin (BTC) price action remains somewhat linked to regulatory decisions, particularly those pertaining to a Bitcoin spot ETF. So far, all of the positive news surrounding spot ETFs has failed to move Bitcoin out of its holding pattern. A green light on this front could unleash substantial inflows into BTC, providing the much-awaited impetus for a resurgence. It would also be remiss not to mention the ongoing FTX saga, which is currently playing out in the courts and damaging crypto’s reputation.

United States Federal Funds Effective Rate, 1955-2023. Source: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

But here’s the twist — what may spell bad news for financial markets could be good for the broader economy. The Federal Reserve holds a pivotal role in shaping the path for risk assets, and it has just two more meetings before the end of the year. Should the Fed decide to suspend further rate hikes, it could act as a catalyst, triggering market anticipation of an impending rate cut. This anticipation could, in turn, set the stage for a massive risk-on rally across various asset classes, including cryptocurrencies.

Festive revelry could set the tone for 2024

The last three months of the year often introduce a heightened Santa rally. After the year we’ve had, it might soften the blow and pave the way for a more palatable 2024. History shows that the market tends to gather momentum during this festive season, with a surge in buying activity and positive sentiment among investors. Among these factors, regulatory decisions regarding spot ETFs and any potential pause in rate hikes, or even a shift in the Fed’s messaging concerning future hikes will be watched closely. So while the cheer from September’s jobs data tends to drive immediate headline moves in the market, it doesn’t necessarily steer the long-term thinking of the Fed.

Looking ahead into 2024, we are faced with the prospect of a BTC “halvening” in April, historically a positive event for crypto. However, the broader macroeconomic conditions have signalled some signs of instability. Bitcoin’s ongoing correlation with stock markets adds an extra layer of complexity to the equation. The outcome hinges on the messaging from the Fed — and decisions made by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding spot ETFs. If the macroeconomic backdrop remains uncertain, the Fed may pivot toward rate cuts, potentially altering the trajectory of both traditional and digital asset markets.

With hints of a bond market recovery and the prospect of regulatory clarity in the crypto space, we could see brighter days ahead. As we approach the festive season, the potential for a Santa rally rekindles the type of hope and momentum that ignites the crypto market. While some challenges may loom, history teaches us that sometimes, it gets worse before it gets better.

Lucas Kiely is chief investment officer of Yield App, where he oversees investment portfolio allocations and leads the expansion of a diversified investment product range. He was previously the chief investment officer at Diginex Asset Management, and a senior trader and managing director at Credit Suisse in Hong Kong, where he managed QIS and Structured Derivatives trading. He was also the head of exotic derivatives at UBS in Australia.