The stock market could be “headed for big trouble on the earnings front” next year because of the Federal Reserve’s plans to hike interest rates three times in 2019, and CNBC’s Jim Cramer is sounding the alarm.
“Three lockstep rate hikes next year will slow growth, boost the dollar and make people feel less wealthy. That is a fatal cocktail, one that makes it very difficult for most companies to raise their forecasts,” the “Mad Money” host said on Friday.
“The Fed’s determined to keep tightening, and if we get the promised rate hike in December followed then by three more rate hikes next year no matter how weak the economy might get, I’m betting that will [be] an accelerant to what could be a serious economic slowdown,” Cramer continued.
And while he insisted that this market situation wasn’t the same as in 2007, when the Fed’s lockstep rate hikes brought the economy to the precipice of a major recession, he was worried about the effect the current Fed could have on stocks.
“I don’t think an actual recession is on the table — the economy’s too strong — but even if we merely decelerate from 4 percent GDP growth down to 2 percent, that’s going to hurt a lot of stocks,” Cramer said.
Even so, Cramer wanted to make clear that he still favored one more rate hike before the end of 2018. He said it would help him determine that the weaker economic data he was seeing wasn’t an aberration caused by the most recent hike.
But J.P. Morgan chief Jamie Dimon’s warning on Friday that geopolitical issues could threaten U.S. economic growth, paired with softer results from key inflation indicators like the consumer price index, worried the “Mad Money” host.
“The number one predictor of higher stock prices is higher earnings estimates,” he said. “The best predictor of lower stock prices? When companies cut their forecasts. I expect a ton of guidance cuts like we had this week from PPG, Trinseo, Fluor and Wabash National,” all key industrials.
What makes things worse for investors is companies don’t usually get a free pass for slashing guidance because of the Fed’s actions like they do for occasional swings in currency or gas prices, Cramer said.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years now, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you cannot ignore the Federal Reserve, not at this point in the business cycle,” he said. “If the Fed stays on its ill-advised current course, these forecasts will be … suboptimal, to put it very diplomatically.”
“Look, the current situation has almost nothing in common with 2007,” Cramer continued. “But the Fed is making the same mistake now that they made 11 years ago. They’ve decided to stop doing their homework, or they’ve become very anecdotal in their analysis. Back then, the Fed just looked at the headlines: ‘Oh, an overheated housing market. We’ve got to raise the rates.’ It was already crashing, Mr. Fed! They didn’t want to get their hands dirty with research like we do. Now, Jerome Powell doesn’t even seem interested in knowing the data. He’s got that preferred narrative. He’s sticking with it.”
Stocks recovered slightly in Friday trading after sustaining sharp losses in Wednesday and Thursday’s sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a volatile day, rising 287 points as of the close.