Markets opened the year with enthusiasm over the prospect of forthcoming policy rate cuts after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) signaled a policy pivot in their final meeting of 2023. However, as 2024 has progressed, that excitement has given way to measured skepticism due to surprisingly healthy U.S. economic data and stubbornly high inflation readings, leading the market to quickly call into question the depth, timing, and certainty of rate cuts. Yet, it’s likely too early to entirely discount rate cuts in 2024. The FOMC has been consistent in their messaging of data-dependency (albeit, erring on the side of caution) and key leading indicators still suggest that the evolution of inflation and economic data over the year may yet be supportive of a policy pivot.

Support for a policy pivot

Deconstructing the FOMC’s preferred measure of inflation, Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCE), shows that Core Services, especially Shelter and specifically the Owner's Equivalent Rent (OER) component of shelter, has been the least responsive during rate hikes. OER seeks to measure the amount of rent that could be paid to substitute an owned house for an equivalent rental property. As it accounts for roughly a quarter of the overall CPI basket, it is one of the key indicators for inflation.

While OER has been noisy over 1Q, other leading indicators of shelter inflation (primary rents, new lease signings, median home prices, home price appreciation, Cleveland Fed New Tenant Repeat Rent Index) all suggest that there is a significant amount of improvement to come in the year ahead. 

Leading Indicators of Shelter Inflation Suggest OER Improvement

Two charts showing that leading Indicators of Shelter Inflation are Suggesting Owners Equivalent Rent Improvement
Source: Bloomberg, Zillow, Principal Asset Management. Data as of April 30.

OER receding in the coming months would likely facilitate a return to the more convincing downward trend in inflation witnessed heading into 2024. In turn, this would present the FOMC with more compelling empirical evidence that their restrictive policy is having the intended impact on inflation and open the door to prospective rate cuts.

Overall, the leading indicators suggest that there will be greater evidence of lagged policy transmission in the U.S. over the remainder of the year. Consequently, a reduction in interest rates by the FOMC to achieve a 'soft landing' is still anticipated. Following the strong March inflation print, a June rate cut has become very unlikely; should upcoming inflation prints improve, a cut later this year remains a possibility. However, the specific timing and depth of cuts will inevitably be determined by the trend of inflation and the health of the economy.

What this means for fixed income investors

Against this backdrop, fixed income returns appear poised to benefit both from an attractive yield and a duration tailwind. The income generated from fixed income today is markedly improved from what investors could find from the asset class only a few years ago, while the FOMC’s prospective shift in policy will benefit duration. Investors should consider the opportunities presented by the evolving Fed cycle.

“The pause” “The pivot” “The End”
Short-term Middle-term Longer-term
Rates Rangebound with upward bias Lower with a steepening bias Rangebound with an upward bias
Spreads Rangebound with tightening bias Rangebound with widening bias Tighter
Action Begin to rotate away from cash/cash equivalents into high-quality fixed income that allows for an extension of duration and reduces reinvestment risk. Favor high-quality longer duration fixed income as the yield curve normalizes and a slowdown becomes more evident Favor high-quality fixed income with carry as the economy slows, but steadily and tactically favor more meaningful allocations to risk assets with credit exposure and less duration as the economy bottoms.
  1. The Pause: In the near term, while the Fed is keeping policy rates on hold, a rotation away from cash and cash equivalents (e.g., money market funds, certificates of deposits, etc.) into high-quality fixed income that allows for a relative extension in duration and mitigates reinvestment risk is opportune. With a greater likelihood for the lasting path of front-end rates to be lower versus higher, increasing duration (or interest rate sensitivity) now will better position a portfolio to take advantage of falling rates. In addition, locking in yield (or income) for a longer period will reduce the risk that an investor sitting in cash and cash equivalents today will have to reinvest that money at a lower rate in the future.
  2. The Pivot: As the FOMC begins to cut rates, high-quality longer-duration fixed income should outperform on a risk-adjusted basis as the inverted yield curve steepens and an economic slowdown becomes more apparent. With more conviction surrounding the depth and timing of rate cuts, fixed income instruments with more duration should benefit as yields on the front end of the curve fall below the yields on the long end of the curve. Holding investment grade paper should position portfolios better to weather an economic downturn and help reduce default risk.
  3. The End: As evidence of a recovery becomes more evident and the Fed approaches the end of its rate cutting cycle, reducing duration and adding incremental risk may be rewarded. Fixed income instruments that offer a heightened risk/reward profile should benefit as the economic cycle bottoms and regains momentum. Tactically reducing duration will help to mitigate interest rate risk and offset headwinds from potential policy rate increases.

The Fed’s path has caught many investors off-guard this year and continues to create uncertainty and debate. Yet, with leading indicators showing that shelter inflation is likely to decline over coming months, investors should now prepare their portfolios for the coming stages of Fed policy. In the near-term, shifting to a longer duration position and a bias towards higher quality credit will enable investors to take advantage of the rate cutting cycle and should also help provide downside risk mitigation as the economy softens. However, in the longer-term, as the economic activity starts to show signs of bottoming and the Fed approaches the end of its rate cutting cycle, investors should make their own pivot towards shorter duration and incremental risk.

Fixed income
Macro views

For Public Distribution in the U.S. For Institutional, Professional, Qualified and/or Wholesale Investor Use Only in other Permitted Jurisdictions as defined by local laws and regulations.

Risk Considerations
Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal. Past performance is no guarantee of future results and should not be relied upon to make an investment decision. Fixed‐income investment options are subject to interest rate risk, and their value will decline as interest rates rise. Inflation and other economic cycles and conditions are difficult to predict and there Is no guarantee that any inflation mitigation strategy will be successful.

Important information
This material covers general information only and does not take account of any investor’s investment objectives or financial situation and should not be construed as specific investment advice, a recommendation, or be relied on in any way as a guarantee, promise, forecast or prediction of future events regarding an investment or the markets in general. The opinions and predictions expressed are subject to change without prior notice. The information presented has been derived from sources believed to be accurate; however, we do not independently verify or guarantee its accuracy or validity. Any reference to a specific investment or security does not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold such investment or security, nor an indication that the investment manager or its affiliates has recommended a specific security for any client account.

All figures shown in this document are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise noted.

This material may contain ‘forward looking’ information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

This material is not intended for distribution to or use by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.

This document is issued in:

  • The United States by Principal Global Investors, LLC, which is regulated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  • Europe by Principal Global Investors (Ireland) Limited, 70 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Dublin 2, D02 R296, Ireland. Principal Global Investors (Ireland) Limited is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Clients that do not directly contract with Principal Global Investors (Europe) Limited (“PGIE”) or Principal Global Investors (Ireland) Limited (“PGII”) will not benefit from the protections offered by the rules and regulations of the Financial Conduct Authority or the Central Bank of Ireland, including those enacted under MiFID II. Further, where clients do contract with PGIE or PGII, PGIE or PGII may delegate management authority to affiliates that are not authorised and regulated within Europe and in any such case, the client may not benefit from all protections offered by the rules and regulations of the Financial Conduct Authority, or the Central Bank of Ireland. In Europe, this document is directed exclusively at Professional Clients and Eligible Counterparties and should not be relied upon by Retail Clients (all as defined by the MiFID).
  • United Kingdom by Principal Global Investors (Europe) Limited, Level 1, 1 Wood Street, London, EC2V 7 JB, registered in England, No. 03819986, which is authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”).
  • United Arab Emirates by Principal Global Investors LLC, a branch registered in the Dubai International Financial Centre and authorized by the Dubai Financial Services Authority as a representative office and is delivered on an individual basis to the recipient and should not be passed on or otherwise distributed by the recipient to any other person or organisation.
  • Singapore by Principal Global Investors (Singapore) Limited (ACRA Reg. No. 199603735H), which is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and is directed exclusively at institutional investors as defined by the Securities and Futures Act 2001. This advertisement or publication has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
  • Australia by Principal Global Investors (Australia) Limited (ABN 45 102 488 068, AFS Licence No. 225385), which is regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and is only directed at wholesale clients as defined under Corporations Act 2001.
  • This document is marketing material and is issued in Switzerland by Principal Global Investors (Switzerland) GmbH.
  • Hong Kong SAR (China) by Principal Asset Management Company (Asia) Limited, which is regulated by the Securities and Futures Commission. This document has not been reviewed by the Securities and Futures Commission.
  • Other APAC Countries/Jurisdictions, this material is issued for institutional investors only (or professional/sophisticated/qualified investors, as such term may apply in local jurisdictions) and is delivered on an individual basis to the recipient and should not be passed on, used by any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to local law or regulation.

Principal Funds are distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc.

© 2024 Principal Financial Services, Inc. Principal®, Principal Financial Group®, Principal Asset Management, and Principal and the logomark design are registered trademarks and service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a Principal Financial Group company, in various countries around the world and may be used only with the permission of Principal Financial Services, Inc. Principal Asset Management is a trade name of Principal Global Investors, LLC. Principal Fixed Income is an investment team within Principal Global Investors.


Related Insights

About the author