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Forward-Looking Six to Nine Months


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Global Economic Outlook

Ongoing progress on inflation and an approaching end to the global central bank rate hiking cycle have moderated risks to the outlook. However, risks continue to be skewed to the downside given rising geopolitical uncertainties. With central banks still mindful of inflation risks, interest rates will likely stay higher for longer and growth prospects remain subdued by historical standards across global economies.

 

While growth in the US has outperformed expectations in 2023, the economy’s resiliency looks set to be increasingly tested in the coming months as the lagged impact of prior Fed rate hikes begins to show a more noticeable impact on consumer spending and business investment. Although a strong labor market and solid household finances should help mitigate a slowdown ahead, we continue to believe that a short and mild recession in the first half of 2024 will be hard to avoid.

Fixed Income Outlook

The Fed kept its target unchanged at the November meeting and is likely at the peak in the current tightening cycle. Balance sheet runoff will continue. The probability of an additional hike prior to year-end is low but will be data dependent. Banking stress has eased, and the 10-year US Treasury has moved higher pushing real rates above average historical levels. Increased long-term treasury supply and global influence such as the Bank of Japan's decision to loosen yield curve control will affect yield levels and disrupt global asset flows. Combined with heightened levels of volatility and a smaller Fed balance sheet, higher short-term interest rates and higher cost of debt will continue to put upward pressure on yields, which we believe will stabilize above 4% over the next 12-18 months.

 

With higher rates, credit conditions will continue to tighten, and we believe that investment grade taxable and municipal bonds offer good value, especially within 3 years. We remain cautious in adding interest rate exposure, especially with signs of sticky inflation and still solid economic data, which will force the Fed to keep policy tight longer than the market expects. At the same time, the competing influences of inflation and growth are expected to keep volatility high in the bond market. We recommend short-term bonds until the rate outlook becomes more stable.

Equity Outlook

From surging bond yields to rising geopolitical concerns, equity markets have found themselves under increasing pressure as we head toward year-end. We suspect markets may remain volatile in the near term, prompted by temporary uncertainties like a potential government shutdown, as well as more structural challenges like the impact of higher interest rates on the economy and corporate profits.

 

With the recent pullback in stock prices, many segments of the equity market are now trading at more compelling levels. However, we believe the path of earnings season will be critical to the market's direction for the rest of the year and early 2024. While we have increased confidence in a recovery in corporate profits in 2024, consensus expectations for a sharp recovery in earnings growth over the next few quarters are likely too optimistic against an expected backdrop of slowing demand. For now, we remain focused on holding high-quality, reasonably valued US companies with durable franchises and strong management teams to help weather a recession should one occur.

Our Proprietary Global Economic & Market Summary Indicators

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  • Monetary Policy

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    Monetary Policy

    What we see

    Monetary policy is one of two ways the government can influence the economy and financial markets. By manipulating interest rates, the Federal Reserve can raise or lower the cost of money to stabilize or stimulate the economy. For example, if the cost of credit is reduced, more people and firms will borrow money and the economy will grow. Higher interest rates will increase the cost of its debt, reducing borrowing and company profits, and may slow economic growth.

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  • US Economic Outlook

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    US Economic Outlook

    What we see

    City National Rochdale's investment and portfolio strategy is driven by our macroeconomic analysis. Timely economic forecasting is very difficult to do but extremely important, especially as the significance of economic information to financial markets continues to rise. To form a reliable outlook for the economy, City National Rochdale utilizes a comprehensive internal research effort that is complemented by an extensive set of external research from some of Wall Street's leading strategists. This approach allows us to develop a complete and dependable forecast of economic conditions. Our economic outlook indicator provides our forecasted expectation for how well the U.S. economy will perform over the next 3-6 months.

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  • Yield Curve

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    Yield Curve

    What we see

    The shape of the yield curve gives an idea of future interest rate changes and economic activity. There are three common yield curve shapes: normal, inverted, and flat. A normal yield curve is one in which longer maturity bonds have a higher yield compared to shorter-term bonds, due to the risks associated with time, and can signal improving economic growth. An inverted yield curve is one in which the shorter-term yields are higher than the longer-term yields, which can be a sign of upcoming recession. In a flat or humped yield curve, the shorter- and longer-term yields are very close to each other, which is also a predictor of an economic transition.

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  • Consumer Sentiment

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    Consumer Sentiment

    What we see

    How consumers feel about their overall financial health as well as that of the economy on the short and long term. This is an important indicator, as the consumer is the largest driver of the U.S. economy.

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  • Disposable Personal Income

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    Disposable Personal Income

    What we see

    The amount of money households have available for spending and saving after income taxes. A change in a household's real income is by far the most important factor in determining how much that household will spend. Other factors, such as home values or financial savings, matter as well but to a significantly lesser extent.

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  • Labor Market

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    Labor Market

    What we see

    Research has shown that employment and income expectations, along with credit availability, are the most important determinants of consumer spending. Personal consumption amounts to roughly 70% of GDP, making a strong labor market essential to a healthy economy.

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  • Housing / Mortgages

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    Housing / Mortgages

    What we see

    Housing is an important indicator of the overall economy and a key driver of investment and job growth. We look at such things as starts, permits, foreclosures, delinquencies, and bank lending to assess the sector's health.

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  • Consumer Spending

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    Consumer Spending

    What we see

    Aggregate level of consumer spending. Since consumers are the largest driver of the U.S. economy, their spending patterns have a large impact on overall economic activity.

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  • Interest Rates

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    Interest Rates

    What we see

    Interest rates control the flow of money in the economy. High interest rates curb inflation, but also slow down the economy. Low interest rates stimulate the economy, but could lead to inflation. Interest rates affect the economy slowly. When the Federal Reserve changes the Fed Funds rate, it can take 12-18 months for the effect of the change to percolate throughout the entire economy.

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  • Fiscal Policy

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    Fiscal Policy

    What we see

    Changes in tax rates, regulation, and government spending affect the decision-making process of consumers and businesses. By changing tax laws, the government can effectively modify the amount of disposable income available to taxpayers or raise the costs for businesses. However, this process takes time, as the money needs to wind its way through the economy, creating a significant lag between the implementation of fiscal policy and its effect on the economy.

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  • Business Outlook Spending/Surveys

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    Business Outlook Spending/Surveys

    What we see

    Surveys of the business community on current and expected trends. This is a gauge on businesses' spending plans that provides an insight into wages, inflation, and capital equipment spending.

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  • Leading Indexes

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    Leading Indexes

    What we see

    We look at a number of indices that have a strong track record in anticipating turns in business cycles. These include measures of production, employment, income, and sales, which have a strong correlation to subsequent economic activity. These indices provide a comprehensive summary gauge of future U.S. economic conditions, with an average lead of 12 months at business cycle peaks and 6 months at business cycle troughs.

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  • Corporate Profit Growth

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    Corporate Profit Growth

    What we see

    Corporate earnings have a significant influence on the stock market as they ultimately drive stock prices. The value of securities is the present value of all future cash flows. Companies either reinvest earnings or pay them out to shareholders as dividends, which directly impact the stock price. As future expectations increase, future projections of company earnings will also increase.

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  • International Economic Outlook

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    International Economic Outlook

    What we see

    The world has become increasingly interconnected through trade and the flow of capital, and emerging markets in particular have risen in importance as drivers of global growth. Moreover, we believe a global perspective is integral to any investment strategy.

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  • Political Environment

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    Political Environment

    What we see

    The overall political climate in the U.S. with a focus on whether it will be supportive or restrictive to economic growth. For instance, while the state of discourse in politics can be tense and deadlocked, it may not be restrictive to growth. Conversely, there could be bipartisan action that is restrictive to growth. It is important to note that this category refers not to the state of discourse, but to the market impact.

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  • Inflation

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    Inflation

    What we see

    While a slow, persistent rise in prices is consistent with a healthy, growing economy, a rapid increase in inflation, especially if unanticipated, can be harmful. Inflation means higher consumer prices, which often slows sales and reduces profits. Higher prices often lead to higher interest rates. Over time, inflation can also wear away at the value of stocks, which is why it is crucial to monitor.

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  • Credit Demand / Availability

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    Credit Demand / Availability

    What we see

    Availability of credit from banks and the overall financial sector to provide capital to the economy. Restrictive credit conditions are a headwind to economic activity, while accommodating conditions may boost it.

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  • Energy Costs

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    Energy Costs

    What we see

    Significant changes in energy/oil prices can have important but differing impacts on the overall economy. Higher energy prices act as a tax on consumers and businesses, absorbing money that would normally be used to buy other goods. However, they can also boost production and investment in the mining and energy sectors of the economy. Lower energy prices can increase consumer spending and lower manufacturing costs.

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  • Equity Market Valuation

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    Equity Market Valuation

    What we see

    Questions of value are always subjective and relative. We believe that equity market valuation should be measured against both the value of stocks at their historical levels and the other investment options available. A stock is worth its future earnings, but that involves a degree of uncertainty, which affects its price depending on the degree. In addition, investors have many other asset classes to choose from, including corporate bonds, Treasury bonds, alternative investments, and the like. We look at all of these factors before we determine what we believe to be a fair equity market valuation.

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  • Geopolitical Risk

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    Geopolitical Risk

    What we see

    Geopolitical risk examines how geography and economics influence politics and international relations. Geopolitical risk includes the risk associated with international policy, trade, and global financial market stability, as well as wars, terrorist acts, tensions between states, and other events that can impact the normal and peaceful course of international relations.

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