As inflation keeps cooling and the Fed has indicated that interest rate hikes could pause, a rate peak could be imminent in the U.S.—a welcome respite from the rate increases that have dogged lenders and borrowers for the last 18 months. If there is a rate peak at hand, investors would be wise to take advantage of it, contends an article in The Wall Street Journal by Derek Horstmeyer, professor of finance at George Mason University.
Growth stocks as well as small-caps would be the way to go, as those categories tend to do well during a rate peak and a plateau phase. However, most of the rewards from those investments will be reaped during the first half of the plateau phase, and Horstmeyer’s team examined 50 years of data to study the phenomenon. By isolating 6 different peak-and-plateau phases, the team found that every kind of stock did well when rates hit their peak, and then fall off in the second half of the subsequent plateau. S&P 500 large-caps produced an annualized 21.4% return in the first of the plateau, and then plunged to only a 6.9% return in the second half. Meanwhile, small-caps and growth stocks saw an annualized return of 27.6% and 26.3%, respectively, in the first half of a plateau, dropping down to 3.5% and 10.2%, respectively, in the second half, the article details.
REITs and international stocks didn’t fare as well as U.S. equities, with annualized returns of 13.8% and 13.9% respectively, while fixed income assets fared even worse, garnering only an average annualized return of 8.25% in a plateau’s first half and 6.13% in the second. The steep drop in returns later in a plateau’s phase could be due to cooling sentiment and uncertainty after the initial enthusiasm when the Fed stops raising rates, the article posits. In any case, investors wanting to take advantage of a rate-hike pause shouldn’t procrastinate; rather, they should jump in early to earn those gains that a plateau’s early phase can bring.