The more the
Federal Reserve changes rates, the more this market stays the same. Volume picked up after today's expected cut, but the major stock market averages pretty much picked up where they left off -- a sign this move was priced in.
The major sectors of the market were also quiet.
Headed into the 2:15 p.m. EDT release of the Fed announcement that it was cutting the
federal funds rate by 50 basis points, retail, utilities and gold were lower, while technology and bank stocks were slightly higher.
And after the rate-cut announcement, retail, utilities and gold were lower, while technology and bank stocks were slightly higher. That's to say, the market got what it expected when the Fed said it cut short-term rates by a half-percentage point. And the major sectors of the market yawned in response.
With today's 50 basis-point rate cut officially on the books, the Fed has moved the federal funds target down to 4% from 6.5%, where it stood at the beginning of the year.
The Fed cuts are expected to benefit certain industries, though.
Historical wisdom holds that banks will benefit from the fact that short-term rates drop, encouraging retail and corporate customers to borrow more. Retailers should get a boost as cheaper borrowing rates encourage people to continue spending. The same rationale works for the industrial-equipment makers. Companies with a lot of debt, such as those in the telecommunications industry, may be able to reduce their debt payments.
But today, the Fed-sensitive names didn't do very much, because much of this rate cut seems to have been priced in, just as it was when the Federal Reserve cut rates on Jan. 31 and March 30. Major rallies occurred, however, when the Fed made surprise moves on Jan. 3 and April 18.
Overall, as with the major market averages, sector movements have been mild when rate cuts came on scheduled Fed meeting days.
Two of the biggest sector gainers -- oil and gold -- barely budged on the day the Fed cut. The gold index is up 14.8% as of yesterday's close. The
Amex Oil & Gas Index
was up 8.3%. But if you added up all the percentage moves over the last four cuts, both indices pretty near broke even.
Indices that drew a big boost on Fed days, like networkers and large-cap tech, drew huge updrafts on days with surprise moves, but year to date, they're off by double-digit percentages. A big winner on Fed days, networkers are off 39.2% for the year. The
Morgan Stanley High-Tech 35 Index
is off 13.6% over the same span.