top of page

Higher Interest Rates Weigh On Stocks In Q3 2023

Q3 Review and Q4 Market Forecast

The S&P 500 rose to the highest level since March 2022 early in the third quarter but rising global bond yields, fears of a rebound in inflation and concerns about a future economic slowdown weighed on the major indices in August and September and the S&P 500 finished the third quarter with a modest loss.

The S&P 500 started third quarter largely the same way it ended the second quarter – with gains. Stocks rose broadly in July thanks primarily to “Goldilocks” economic data, meaning the data showed solid economic growth but not to the extent that would have implied the Federal Reserve needed to hike rates further than investors expected. That solid economic data combined with a decline in inflation metrics to further boost stock prices, as investors embraced reduced near-term recession risks and steadily declining inflation. The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, increased interest rates in late July but also signaled that could be the last rate hike of the cycle. Finally, Q2 earnings season was better-than-feared with mostly favorable corporate guidance which supported expectations for strong earnings growth into 2024.

The market dynamic changed on the first day of August, however, when Fitch Ratings, one of the larger U.S. credit rating agencies, downgraded U.S. sovereign debt. The 10-year Treasury yield rose from 4.05% on August 1st to a high of 4.34% on August 21st, the highest level since mid-2007. That rapid rise in yields weighed on stock prices throughout August and the S&P 500 posted its first negative monthly return since February, as higher rates pressured equity valuations and raised concerns about a future economic slowdown. The S&P 500 finished August down 1.59%.

Rising bond yields were the main driver of the markets in the third quarter as high Treasury yields caused reversals in performance on a sector and index basis, relative to the first and second quarters.

Rising bond yields were the main driver of the markets in the third quarter as high Treasury yields caused reversals in performance on a sector and index basis, relative to the first and second quarters.

On a sector level, nine of the 11 S&P 500 sectors finished the third quarter with a negative return, which is a stark reversal from the broad gains of the second quarter. Energy was, by far, the best performing S&P 500 sector in the third quarter thanks to a surge in oil prices. Communications Services also finished Q3 with a slightly positive quarterly return on hopes integration of advanced artificial intelligence would boost search and social media companies’ future advertising revenues.

Fourth Quarter Market Outlook

Markets begin the quarter decidedly more anxious than they started the third quarter, but it’s important to realize that while the S&P 500 did hit multi-month lows in September and there are legitimate risks to the outlook, underlying fundamentals remain generally strong.

First, while there are reasonable concerns about a future economic slowdown, economic data remains solid. Employment, consumer spending and business investment were all resilient last quarter and actual economic data do not point to an imminent economic slowdown. So, while a slowdown is possible given interest rates, student loan payments resuming and decline of U.S. savings, actual economic data is clear: It isn’t happening yet.

Second, fears that inflation may bounce back are also legitimate, given the rally in oil prices in the third quarter. But the Federal Reserve and other central banks typically look past commodity-driven inflation and focus on “core” inflation and that metric continued to decline throughout the third quarter.

Additionally, declines in housing prices from the recent peak are only now beginning to work into the official inflation statistics, and that should see core inflation move lower in the months ahead.

Finally, regarding monetary policy, the Federal Reserve’s historic rate hike campaign is nearing an end. And while we should expect the Fed to keep rates “higher for longer,” high interest rates do not automatically result in an economic slowdown. Interest rates have merely returned to levels that were typical in the 1990s and early 2000s, before the financial crisis, and the economy performed well during those periods. Yes, higher rates risk causing a slowdown, but for now, higher rates are not causing a material loss of economic momentum.

In sum, there are real risks to both the markets and the economy, but they are similar to risks faced throughout 2023 and the economy and markets have remained impressively resilient. So, while these risks and others must be monitored closely, they don’t present headwinds on stocks that haven’t existed for much of the year.

We understand the risks facing both the markets and the economy, and we are committed to helping you effectively navigate this challenging investment environment. Successful investing is a marathon, not a sprint, and even intense volatility is unlikely to alter a diversified approach set up to meet your long-term investment goals.

Therefore, it’s critical for you to stay invested, remain patient, and stick to the plan, as we’ve worked with you to establish a unique, personal allocation target based on your financial position, risk tolerance, and investment timeline.

We thank you for your ongoing confidence and trust. Please rest assured that our entire team will remain dedicated to helping you accomplish your financial goals.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, comments, or to schedule a portfolio review.

3 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Important Disclosures


The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized investment advice.

All expressions of opinion are subject to change without notice in reaction to shifting market or economic conditions. Data contained herein from third party providers is obtained from what are considered reliable sources. However, Its accuracy, completeness or reliability cannot be guaranteed. 

Information included on this site is intended to be an overview and is subject to change. Experiences expressed are not a guarantee of future success. Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.

bottom of page