Wells Fargo's warning to investors: The Fed is not your friend

As Wall Street gears up for key inflation data, Wells Fargo Securities’ Michael Schumacher believes one thing is clear: “The Fed is not your friend.”

He warns Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell will likely hold interest rates higher for longer, and it could leave investors on the wrong side of the trade.

“You think about the history over the last 15 years. Whenever there was weakness, the Fed rides to the rescue. Not this time. The Fed cares about inflation, and that’s just about it,” the firm’s head of macro strategy told CNBC’s “Fast Money” on Monday. “So, the idea of lots of easing — forget it.”

The Labor Department will release its January consumer price index, which reflects prices for good and services, on Tuesday. The producer price index takes the spotlight on Thursday.

“Inflation could come off a fair bit. But we still don’t know exactly what the destination is,” said Schumacher. “[That] makes a big difference to the Fed – if that’s 3%, 3.25%, 2.75%. At this point, that’s up in the air.

He warns the year’s early momentum cannot coexist with a Fed that’s adamant about battling inflation.

“Higher yields… doesn’t sound good to stocks,” added Schumacher, who thinks market optimism will ultimately fade. So far this year, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is up almost 14% while the broader S&P 500 is up about 8%.

Schumacher also expects risks tied to the China spy balloon fallout and Russia tensions to create extra volatility.

For relative safety and some upside, Schumacher still likes the 2-year Treasury Note. He recommended it during a “Fast Money” interview in Sept. 2022, saying it’s a good place to hide out. The note is now yielding 4.5% — a 15% jump since that interview.

His latest forecast calls for three more quarter point rate hikes this year. So, that should support higher yields. However, Schumacher notes there’s still a chance the Fed chief Powell could shift course.

“A number of folks in the committee lean fairly dovish,” Schumacher said. “If the economy does look a bit weaker, if the jobs picture does darken a fair bit, they may talk to Jay Powell and say ‘Look, we can’t go along with additional rate hikes. We probably need a cut or two fairly soon.’ He may lose that argument.”

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