Retailers remain giddy from consumer holiday spending, and 9-to-5ers using the last of their vacation days still may not be ready to look toward the next 12 months.
But with each new year comes economic uncertainty, particularly after a 2022 that saw uncompromising inflation and steadily rising interest rates.
To that end, the Tulsa World recently asked a pair of local financial experts to weigh in on what 2023 has in store for people trying to make ends meet.
Here are takes on a number of issues from Brian Henderson, chief investment officer for BOK Financial, and Jake Dollarhide, chief executive officer of Longbow Asset Management.
In an effort to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve in December raised interest rates for the seventh time in 2022, placing the current fed rate in the range of 4.25%-4.50%, the highest level in 15 years. Are these hikes making a difference?
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DOLLARHIDE: “As painful as higher interest rates are, prolonged inflation is even more painful. It’s kind of like like ripping the Band-Aid off. That’s what the Fed has done this year is rip the Band-Aid off.
“But gas prices peaked in May. Grocery prices seem to be stabilizing. So it is working. What’s spooking the market is the inability to know what the high-water mark is for the Fed. Is it 5% or is it higher?”
HENDERSON: “We are heading in the right direction with re-balancing supply and demand in the economy. Yes, the rate hikes are working but we still haven’t yet felt the full brunt of what the Fed has had to do. Monetary policy operates with some level of a lag.
“In the first quarter, we are going to get a much better sense of the shape of the U.S. economy and what condition it’s in. … I’m expecting another good December as far as growth in the overall economy. Once we get after the first of the year, I’m expecting inflation rates to continue to trend down some.”
Is Oklahoma — and particularly Tulsa — better positioned than other sections of the country to handle this economic rollercoaster?
DOLLARHIDE: “People ask, ‘are we in a recession?’ The answer is probably ‘yes.’ But I don’t think this is an accurate way to view things. Look at oil and gas. When oil went negative $32 a barrel in the fall of 2020, energy was in a recession and tech was in a boom. Now … energy is in a boom and technology is in a recession. There are parts of every city in every state that are doing well and some that are not doing well.
“That’s the way I look at it. Oklahoma is very heavy energy, very heavy health care, very heavy education. These are things that are going to keep on churning during a recession.”
The annual inflation rate for the United States is 7.1%, down from a high of 9.1% in June. Although inflation seems to be slowing, it remains far above the Fed’s 2% target. How much can we expect it to drop?
HENDERSON: “Two percent is achievable. I hope it’s not necessary for us to have a severe recession to get there. But it certainly is going to require higher unemployment rates and slower economic growth. It’s our forecast that we are going to have less than 1% economic growth here this year in 2023.”
DOLLARHIDE: “Even the Fed can’t hide the fact that the long-term inflation rate the last 100 years is 3.1%. So, I would say the Fed’s real target is 4% at this point. If we get down to 4%, I think we will be fine. I think we can be at 4% by summer.”
Workplace retirement plans have taken a substantial hit in this economy. How should we frame this in the long term?
HENDERSON: “In 2022, both stock and bond markets weren’t prepared for the rise in inflation and the subsequent increase in interest rates. That’s why both bond and stock prices that negatively impact 401(k) plans this year were hurt so bad.
“It does make sense to move small percentages one way or the other. If you typically have 70% in equities and 30% in bonds, lean more heavily on bonds because they do give you a better level of protection and if we do go into a recession, they are going to perform better than stock.”
What can we look forward to locally in the marketplace in 2023?
DOLLARHIDE: “2020 was a nightmare. No one had a 102-year playbook on a pandemic. 2021 was an amazing year. As for 2022, we have playbooks on inflation. We have playbooks on war. We have playbooks on interest rates. We have playbooks now on COVID and lockdowns and supply-chain restraints. But unfortunately, it wasn’t just interest rates. It was a five-headed monster.
“I think we’re destined for a much better year. Whatever the Fed needs to do, I would say they are 85% to 95% done.”
HENDERSON: “Because companies allow the more flexible working arrangements, working from home, we are attracting people from both coasts who are selling their expensive homes, looking for more Tulsa lifestyle and culture. Tulsa is wonderful place to raise a family certainly, and it’s affordable.
“The future is bright for Tulsa.”