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SPI Management Newsletter 10.11.23

Federal Reserve Chair Advises Prudence in Inflation Battle Amidst Economic Shifts

Federal Reserve Chairman Powell has urged caution in interpreting optimistic economic data, emphasizing the ongoing challenge of reining in inflation to the 2% target. During an IMF event, Powell acknowledged recent improvements in inflation but cautioned against premature celebrations, indicating the potential need for further policy tightening.

Powell's cautionary stance comes after the Federal Reserve paused its intense monetary tightening campaign, maintaining the benchmark interest rate at its highest in 22 years, between 5.25% and 5.5%. This decision reflects an increased wariness among officials in the face of various factors predicted to decelerate growth from the exceptional 4.9% annualized rate seen in the third quarter.

Despite the U.S. economy's impressive resilience in the face of significant policy restrictions, Powell described the situation as "remarkably resilient." The caution is also visible in the financial markets, with U.S. stocks and government bonds reacting negatively to Powell's remarks.

The dynamic in the bond market is particularly noteworthy, with yields fluctuating significantly. The 30-year yield rose by 0.12 percentage points to 4.78%, while the 10-year yield increased by 0.13 percentage points to 4.64%. These changes followed a 30-year Treasury auction and were further complicated by external disruptions in Treasury trade settlements.

While there are indications of a slowing labor market, the Federal Reserve has not yet confidently declared that interest rates have reached a sufficiently restrictive level. The fluctuation in global borrowing costs poses additional challenges to this assessment.

Market traders largely anticipate that the policy rate has reached its peak, shifting the debate towards when the central bank might start to reduce rates. However, IMF cautioned against hasty policy relaxation, noting the complex communication challenges faced by central banks, emphasizing the need to carefully balance positive inflation trends with the complexities of concluding the inflation battle.

The Current Silence in the IPO Market: Analyzing the Underlying Causes

The IPO market is experiencing an unusual quiet period, particularly noticeable during the typically active weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. This period usually sees a surge of IPOs looking to go public before the holiday season begins. However, this year is markedly different with a noticeable absence of new public offerings.

The current state of the IPO market is attributed to a combination of challenging factors. Poor stock performance in October, persistently high interest rates, disappointing outcomes for recent IPOs, and the possibility of significantly lowered valuations are deterring companies from going public. The rise in the 10-year Treasury yield has been a significant factor, dampening the enthusiasm for new public listings.

Some companies are opting to delay their IPOs. For instance, there's been a postponement of an Waystar IPO until potentially December or even into 2024. In another case, Klarna is reportedly making staff cuts in preparation for an IPO next year.

This slowdown contrasts sharply with previous years, where November and December witnessed several big IPOs. For example, the largest IPO of 2021 (Rivian) occurred in November, alongside other notable public listings during the same period.

The year 2023 has seen a significant reduction in IPO activity, with only 96 IPOs raising $18.8 billion, a stark decline from the usual $50 billion raised in a typical year.

The lack of encouraging performances from recent IPOs has also added to the market's hesitation. Several of the year's largest IPOs are trading below their initial offering prices (Kenvue, Birkenstock, Instacart), and even companies that went public in the earlier part of the year have seen their stock prices drop post-IPO.

Despite the current market trends, some industry observers speculate that December might still see some IPO activity if the market rally continues. However, the general outlook remains challenging, with sectors like AI gaining interest but not yet mature enough for public offerings. This scenario leaves many companies with tough decisions: go public at lower valuations, remain private in hopes of securing ongoing funding, or explore mergers or discontinuation of operations.

Adapted from WSJ, FT, NYT, Reuters, CNBC, Bloomberg

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