Are Credit Conditions Tightening Again?

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Despite the Fed raising interest rates, credit conditions were actually relaxing on some levels in the back half of 2022.

“Financial conditions have loosened significantly in recent months and, by some measures, are around levels that prevailed last March when the Fed initiated this hiking cycle.” – Why the Federal Reserve Should Raise Rates by Half a Percent

Equities were rallying through this period, unsurprisingly.  So, were digital bit apes and other assorted things.

However, there appears to be evidence that credit conditions are now heading the other way:

  1. “The Federal Reserve has reduced its balance sheet by $626 billion since the peak in April 2022, with total assets now down to $8.34 trillion, the lowest since August 2021, according to the weekly balance sheet released today. Compared to a month ago, total assets dropped by $94 billion.” “Over the past four weeks, the Fed has shed $61.2 billion in Treasury securities, exceeding by a smidgen the monthly cap of $60 billion.” – Fed’s Balance Sheet Drops by $626 Billion from Peak
  2. “The only time conditions have tightened this much has been in advance of or during the last 4 recessions since 1990.” – Credit conditions in Q4 were recessionary
  3. “As it stands, the average lender is now back up into the low 7’s for a well-qualified 30yr fixed scenario. These aren’t the highest levels we’ve seen during this cycle, but they are the highest in more than 4 months (and not too far away from the long-term highs just under 7.4%).” – Calculated Risk: “Mortgage Rates Now Back Above 7%”

We have had a 15 year bull market with low interest rates and lots of liquidity.  In other words, “Disneyland.”

My sense is most market participants are going to be slow to change how they learned to behave during the bull market cycle, until they are forced to do so.