Powell Is Worried About Inflation, So Why Isn’t This Company?
As I type this, I’m picturing Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell nervously practicing his opening statement for his press conference.
On Wednesday afternoon, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, Powell will step in front of the cameras for the press conference he holds at the conclusion of every Fed meeting. And not to knock on Powell too much, but it’s been widely documented that stocks generally decline slightly as Powell speaks.
Press conferences at the Fed are a recent development. Former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke held the central bank’s first press conference in 2011. Prior to Bernanke, Fed officials took pride in not speaking clearly. Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan once said, “Since I’ve become a central banker, I’ve learned to mumble with great incoherence. If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said.”
I’ve heard from traders in the past, who’ve said that it could take days to understand whether the Fed changed interest rates because there wasn’t even an official statement after meetings wrapped up.
According to The New York Times:
It wasn’t until 1994, about halfway through Mr. Greenspan’s tenure, that the Fed’s policy committee started to announce, after each meeting, any actions it had taken.
Even more significantly, in 2003, as the economy still struggled to recover from the 2001 recession, the committee said its low interest rate policy would be “maintained for a considerable period.”
This was a big moment: “For the first time,” Ms. Yellen said, “the committee was using communication — mere words — as its primary monetary policy tool.”
Now, Powell faces the press every six weeks, and there seems to be selling pressure associated with each appearance. But the selloffs have been short-lived. Two weeks after the Fed meets, the S&P 500 has generally been higher.
How I’m Trading Right Now
That means we could see volatility this week, but the uptrend in the stock market remains intact after the recent selloff ended exactly where expected. Last week, I noted that the decline in SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE: SPY) stopped right at the 50-day moving average.
We will see additional tests of that moving average. But until it’s broken, we should remain bullish, even as Powell is nervously watching for news from companies announcing earnings this season.
One company that recently announced earnings that I like as a trade candidate is PepsiCo, Inc. (NASDAQ: PEP).
PEP is trading at new highs after a strong earnings report. Wall Street traders seem to be pleased by the very thing that worries Powell, which is Pepsi’s plans for inflation.
Pepsi expects inflation and, the company noted…
…is also seeing higher costs for some ingredients, freight and labor. During a [recent] conference call …, CEO Ramon Laguarta told analysts that the company thinks it can manage the higher costs through a combination of higher prices and increased productivity. CFO Hugh Johnston said Pepsi expects to keep hiking prices after Labor Day.
Pepsi executives made similar comments on the prior quarter’s conference call, although inflation has accelerated since then. Luckily for Pepsi, its ingredient basket is diverse, and no single commodity accounts for more than a tenth of the basket.
Higher prices for consumers indicates management intends to maintain high profit margins, and that is good for long-term shareholders. In the short term, the stock is on an Income Trader Volatility (ITV) “buy” signal.
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