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Rate Hike: If you’re anything like us, you’ve read the headlines and articles about the Fed rate hike amongst the humanitarian heartbreak of war. It’s easy to get swayed by the changing tide of the headlines and any number of future ‘what-if’ scenarios economically and beyond. While the Federal Reserve officially voted to lift interest rates by a quarter-point last week and penciled in six more increases by year’s end, what do we see historically when the Fed takes this sort of action? The escalating effort to slow inflation is, and will continue to be, job #1 for Powell and company. Officials signaled they expect to lift the rate to nearly 2% by the end of the year, with potentially six hikes along the way. Fed rate hikes usually happen near the middle of the economic cycle, leaving the potential of years left of gains in stocks and the economy. Check out this chart, as it may take more time than we think for demand to be undermined and the cycle to roll over into an outright economic recession. The obvious wild card here is the geopolitical risks of a broader war in Europe.

As always, keep in touch as questions arise, or changes come to your own financial world.

Business Briefing:

  • Russia Suspension—This past week, the House approved legislation seeking to suspend normal trade relations with Russia and its ally Belarus as part of the ongoing effort to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. The bill passed 424 to 8. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he expected the Senate to approve the bill quickly. (CNN, The Wall Street Journal)
  • Jobless Claims Fall—The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 to 214,000 last week in a sign that layoffs are continuing to drop as the job market bounces back from disruption by the coronavirus pandemic. A 50-year low of 1,419,000 Americans received unemployment aid in the week that ended March 5. (The Associated Press)
  • Generic COVID Pill—Thirty-five global manufacturers have signed agreements to produce generic versions of Pfizer’s antiviral treatment for COVID-19. The Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed nonprofit that negotiated a licensing deal with Pfizer last fall, announced the list of companies participating in the effort. The companies plan to sell their versions of Pfizer’s COVID pills inexpensively in 95 lower-income countries that are home to half the global population. (The Associated Press)
  • Russia Paid Up?—Thursday, Russia’s Finance Ministry transferred a $117 million bond interest payment to stave off a potentially devastating default on government debt. However, it did not confirm whether the money reached foreign investors in time to beat a Wednesday deadline. The statement, released by Russian state media, said money was sent to a Citibank account in London. Citibank made no immediate comment. (The Associated Press, Reuters)

Tech Watch: Like the rest of the world, we’ve been making recent changes to accommodate virtual meetings as a regular practice. When it came time to hold conference calls more regularly, we’d evaluated turning our conference rooms into “smart” rooms—large screens, upgraded projectors, special mics, rewiring in the ceiling. The quotes for these renovations were, in the words of the late and great Patsy Cline, “Crazy.” But, with a little more research, we found a solution that was not only far less expensive or complicated, but it was also better. The Meeting Owl Pro. It’s a nifty device that just sits in the middle of our conference table. It’s decked with a 360 camera smart mic that tracks who in the room is speaking. All we do is plug it in, and instantly it works with Zoom, Teams, all the typical programs. If any of you have been bumping into similar needs, we couldn’t recommend this thing enough! (Bonus feature: it hoots whenever powered up. What’s not to like?)

Fishing in Yellowstone: Recently, a smallmouth bass was caught in Montana’s Gardner River. And it has Yellowstone Park biologists deeply concerned about the possible “invasion” of the non-native species. Mid-week, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) explained that an established population of smallmouth bass in the region “could pose threats to native fish in the upper Yellowstone River.” Todd Koel, lead fisheries biologist for Yellowstone National Park, stated, “Since anglers are highly effective at suppressing invasive fish in waters where they coexist with native species such as cutthroat trout, they will be required to kill and report any smallmouth bass caught in Yellowstone National Park when the fishing season opens on Memorial Day weekend.” It’s unclear how the smallmouth bass got into the Gardner River, but it might have involved an illegal transfer. All I can say is that wasn’t me.