M2 Money Supply
Volcker stormed to the scene to extinguish a blaze lit by others, while Powell battles a conflagration of his own making. Even if Powell executed a perfect, disinflationary soft landing, there may be something else in the cards: The magnitude of M2 shrinkage has resulted in the Marshallian K’s worst ever reading.
We scrutinized the typical path of money growth during the four-year presidential election cycle, and found that it typically tends to bottom out in October of the midterm year! The cycle says a monetary pivot is imminent, and the average pattern traced out by M2 suggests an acceleration in the growth rate of about 2.5% leading up to the presidential election.
As suggested in our June 24th, Chart of the Week, the peak in consumer inflation (+8.6% in May) has likely either occurred or is imminent. Consumers should thank the stock market, which in 2022 has taken up its occasional role as inflation-fighter after the Fed abdicated throughout 2021.
The extra months of QE “auto-pilot” failed to support some of the themes we’d have thought were the most likely to benefit from it—including IPOs, SPACs, Bitcoin, and the sky-high growers favored by the ARK Innovation ETF. Instead, the smart play with each of these assets was to ignore the ever-expanding Fed balance sheet and sell in February.
Compare the U.S. monetary response in early 2020 to China’s: The Fed quadrupled the M2 growth rate (from 6% to 24%) in three months, while China merely bumped M2 growth from 8% to 11%. This relative policy restraint leaves China in a better position to handle potential fallout than if it had gone “all in” like the U.S.
In 2019 and 2020, our regard for time-tested valuation tools resulted in tactical portfolios being underexposed to stocks during a pair of tremendous rallies. Now, the critique is that we don’t appreciate the brilliance of today’s policymakers and their miraculous ability to pivot just when the stocks (and, in the latest case, the economy) need it most.
Among six major monetary gauges, five are now graded bullish, compared with just three a few months ago, and zero at the end of 2018.
We always do our own work and draw our own conclusions. Lately, though, we’ve wondered what the late “Monetary Marty” Zweig might say about the stock market’s current liquidity backdrop.