Pre-market equities: Did US inflation peak in March? Americans are worried

Having already reached 7.9% in February, economists hope that runaway inflation peaked in the first quarter. But there are plenty that will keep prices high for the rest of the year, and consumers are worried. Even though the Federal Reserve has started to tighten its monetary policy to control inflation, prices continue to rise.
A year from now, consumers expect inflation to be 6.6%, according to the New York Fed’s Consumer Expectations Survey. This is a new high for the survey and a significant increase from February’s 6%.

The reading comes as the war in Ukraine drives up the prices of energy and agricultural raw materials.

To keep up with rising prices, Americans also expect their household spending to rise in the coming year, according to the survey. Spending expectations rose to 7.7%, also a new high for the New York Fed survey and the biggest one-month jump since the series began in 2013.

Economists polled by Refinitiv forecast that the consumer price index for March will hit 8.4%, which would match the level of January 1982 and mark a new 40-year high.

Whether this is really the peak of inflation remains to be seen, as the conflict in Ukraine continues to add pressure on prices. Americans faced soaring pump prices in March, while food inflation is expected to remain high throughout the year.

So what to do?

The Fed has already started rolling back its pandemic stimulus, including raising interest rates last month for the first time since 2018. The central bank is expected to continue raising rates this year to keep inflation under control.

Market expectations for a rare half-percentage-point hike at the Fed’s next meeting in early May are over 80%.

But there are fears that the Fed’s actions are doing more harm than good.

“If the Fed decides to bring inflation down to 8% [roughly] Targeting 2% alone is hard to do without causing a recession,” Baird Private Wealth Management strategists said. German Bank (comics) and Goldman Sachs (GS) have previously warned that the Fed’s soft landing attempts could end up dragging the economy into a recession.

Russia rejects ‘default’ as it tries to pay in rubles

The bills are coming due, putting Russia on track for its first default on its foreign debt in a century.

On Friday, ratings agency S&P said Moscow was offering bondholders payments in rubles, not dollars, which amounts to a “selective default”. In other words, investors are unlikely to be able to convert those rubles into dollars equivalent to the remaining amounts, which means that even if Russia pays, it defaults.

This is where it gets a bit murky: Moscow has a 30-day grace period, starting April 4, to make principal and interest payments. This will be difficult to do under Western sanctions.

Certainly, Russia has money. He just can’t access a bunch of them.

Since 2014, the Kremlin has accumulated about $640 billion in foreign exchange reserves. More than half of these funds are now frozen under Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia plans to challenge the “default” label, although it’s unclear how.

“We will continue, because we have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that investors receive their payments,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia on Monday.

“We will show the court proof of our payments, to confirm our efforts to pay in rubles, just as we did in foreign currency. It will not be a simple process,” he added. He did not say who Russia planned to prosecute.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a news conference last week that any default would be “artificial” because Russia has the dollars to pay – it simply cannot access them.

“There’s no reason for a real default,” Peskov said. “Not even close.”

Musk’s Twitter U-turn

The saga was downright dizzying.

After a whirlwind week in which Twitter announced that Elon Musk had become its largest shareholder and would join its board of directors, Twitter (TWTR) CEO Parag Agrawal said Sunday night that Musk would not become a director after all.

These are stunning developments even for Twitter, a company that is certainly no stranger to corporate chaos, writes my colleague Clare Duffy. And that could be the start of many headaches to come for its relatively new chief executive.

Musk still has his 9.2% stake and over 80 million followers on the platform. In other words, he may be saying no to the board seat, but he’s certainly not done trying to shake up Twitter.

Some analysts expect Musk to try to buy even more shares of the company now that he is no longer bound by the board’s stipulation that he caps his ownership at 14.9% . While Agrawal has dealt with a friendly Musk thus far, one can only imagine what a hostile approach would look like.

In an investor note on Monday, Wedbush analyst Dan Ives outlined some possible scenarios for Musk’s next steps, including working with a private equity partner to force changes or even orchestrate a takeover. . Or, Musk could just continue to “create more noise and angst for Twitter Board/execs.”

In the end, Musk is a wildcard, and he’s now a strong enough force to undermine Agrawal’s leadership just as he takes over.

Following

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its U.S. Consumer Price Report at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Also today: income from CarMax (KMX) and Albertson.
Coming tomorrow: US producer prices; income from JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Delta (DAL), black rock (noir) and Bed bath and beyond (BBBY).

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