Has Yellen Become A Dove Again?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


Janet Yellen’s equivocal remarks at last week’s semi-annual Congressional testimony certainly might make you believe that a rate hike at the Federal Reserve’s July 25-26 meeting is hardly a sure thing. Indeed, the odds of that happening are a lot less than 50-50. A lot less.

In her testimony, Yellen remained confident in her previous declarations that inflation would gradually rise to the Fed’s 2% target. “It’s premature to reach the judgment that we’re not on the path to 2% inflation over the next couple of years,” she said. But then she quickly hedged her bets. “We’re watching this very closely and stand ready to adjust our policy if it appears that the inflation undershoot will be persistent,” she said.

Based on the past several months’ worth of inflation statistics, one would have a tough time arguing that lower-than-expected inflation hasn’t become “persistent.” Last month’s consumer price index was unchanged from May and up only 1.6% versus a year earlier, the fourth straight decline by that measurement. That followed May’s personal-consumption expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, which fell 0.1%. The core index, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.1%, but just 1.4% on a year-to-year basis, well below the Fed’s target rate and lower than at the beginning of the year. Continue reading "Has Yellen Become A Dove Again?"

Should We Believe The 'Transitory' Story?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


The bond market may have stopped listening to the Federal Reserve, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't know what the voting members of its monetary policy committee are thinking. What's clear is that they're not as united as they were at their last meeting just two weeks ago, when they voted nearly unanimously to raise interest rates by 25 basis points, with only Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari voting against.

Now, no sooner was the vote cast, but it appears that it at least one member, maybe two, have misgivings about voting for the increase. At the very least, they're not as much in a hurry to raise rates again soon, if not until the end of this year, if not even later.

Still, as you would expect – or hope for – in a body of intelligent people, there's a strong difference of opinion on what the Fed should do next as it concerns interest rates. Continue reading "Should We Believe The 'Transitory' Story?"

Janet From Another Planet

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


For most of the past 10 years the financial markets have been led if not actually directed by the all-knowing, all-seeing Federal Reserve. But over the past year or so the roles have changed, or at least the markets have basically stopped listening to the Fed.

Case in point: Last week the Fed, largely as expected, voted 8-to-1 to raise short-term interest rates by another 25 basis points; Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, who wanted to keep rates unchanged, was the lone dissenter. The Fed has now raised its benchmark federal funds rate three times since last December.

Normally, that move should have induced long-term rates – which are set by traders and investors in the bond market, not the Fed – to rise, too. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, long-term rates have gone in the other direction, falling to their lowest levels since last November, to the point where the yield curve – the difference between short-term and long-term rates – has flattened out to a point we haven’t seen in years.

Last week the yield on the U.S. Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note ended at 2.15%, which is down nearly 50 basis points from a recent high of 2.63% three months ago. Over that same period, the yield on the three-month T-bill has risen by about 25 bps, from 0.75% to 1.01%. That means the difference between the two has been cut to about 115 bps from 188 bps in just three months.

Why the disconnect between what the Fed is doing, and thinks is happening, and what the bond market perceives is really happening? Continue reading "Janet From Another Planet"

The Odds Of A Fed Rate Hike In June Just Got Smaller

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


Still think the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at its monetary policy meeting next week? Last Friday’s jobs report for May should make you rethink that notion. But it’s not the only reason.

Prior to the release of the report – which showed that the economy added just 138,000 jobs last month, nearly 50,000 below expectations, while the previous two months were revised downward by 66,000– the market consensus called for the Fed to raise rates by 25 basis points at its June 13-14 meeting. That doesn’t seem like such a sure thing anymore.

After its last meeting on May 2-3, when it took no action on rates largely because of a weaker-than-expected economy in the first quarter, the Fed said it expected the slowdown was “likely to be transitory.” Now, however, we have a pretty substantial body of evidence that indicate fairly strongly, if not consistently, that the slowdown has continued well into the second quarter. Continue reading "The Odds Of A Fed Rate Hike In June Just Got Smaller"

Did The Fed Jump The Gun? Now What?

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates


Based on the recent direction of the U.S. economy and the drop in Treasury bond yields to six-month lows, it would appear that the Federal Reserve may have been a little too hasty in raising interest rates and ending monetary accommodation. So how will the markets – both stocks and bonds – react if the Fed has to swallow its pride and need to stuff the genie back in the bottle?

As we know, since Donald Trump was elected last November, the Fed has raised the federal funds rate twice, plus promised at least two more increases by the end of this year. At the same time, it’s also said that it plans to start trimming its massive $4.5 trillion securities portfolio before year-end. All of that action has been predicated on the economy growing and potentially over-heating – i.e., causing too much inflation – under President Trump’s stimulative policies, including tax cuts, deregulation and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

But what happens if those assumptions don’t actually become a reality, which is what seems to be happening right now? Will the Fed suddenly start lowering interest rates again, or at least put off its plans for future rate increases? And will it also put on hold its balance sheet reduction plan? Continue reading "Did The Fed Jump The Gun? Now What?"