What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?

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

The battle lines are being drawn for the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting this week. The prevailing market consensus right now is that no resolution of the debate – which mainly concerns inflation – will happen at the meeting, meaning there will be no change in interest rates, and may not be before the end of this year.

One side of the issue, which seems to be the prevailing view at the central bank, was recently promulgated by Fed governor Lael Brainard at a meeting of the Economic Club of New York. “My own view is that we should be cautious about tightening policy further until we are confident inflation is on track to achieve our target,” she said. “We have been falling short of our inflation objective not just in the past year, but over a longer period as well. What is troubling is five straight years in which inflation fell short of our target despite a sharp improvement in resource utilization.”

The other side, which appears to be the minority opinion, is represented by William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, who isn’t overly concerned about the current level of inflation. “Even though inflation is currently somewhat below our longer-run objective, I judge that it is still appropriate” to raise interest rates soon, he said recently. “I expect that we will continue to gradually remove monetary policy accommodation.” Continue reading "What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?"

Eurozone: 2017 Spells More Trouble

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor

The year 2017 is just around the corner and it seems that more troubles are brewing for the Eurozone. The region faces a deadly combination of a premature ECB taper, Fed tightening and more political uncertainty. Together, those factors could disrupt the already fragile Eurozone recovery.

ECB Tapers While Fed Tightens

Mario Draghi, the ECB President, so far has proved (and more than once) his ability to stabilize the Eurozone economy and delicately navigate monetary policy. But, in the latest ECB rate decision, which was also the last for 2016, Mario Draghi may have slipped up and acted a bit too hastily. Draghi declared that the ECB would reduce its monthly bond purchases from the current pace of €80 billion a month to €60 billion, beginning in April 2017. Despite constant denials from the ECB, there is simply no other way to interpret Draghi’s declaration but as a tapering of the ECB’s Quantitative Easing program. And, in the world of monetary policy, especially ultra-loose monetary policy, less stimulus equals tightening.

The ECB is effectively rolling back part of the brakes it has used to curb volatility in the Eurozone debt market. When the Greek crisis loomed, the ECB used QE to curb volatility. Likewise, when the Spanish banking crisis erupted and, as of late, with Brexit and the Italian banking crises, the ECB quickly responded. The ECB’s massive QE program helped restrain the shocks to the system. Continue reading "Eurozone: 2017 Spells More Trouble"

Central Bank Chutzpah

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

We must be getting closer to the global asset bubble bursting or the end of central bank intervention, or both since the latter is likely to cause the former. How do I know? Central banks and the international agencies that support their policies have already begun the blame game, in order to deflect criticism from themselves when the bubble does burst.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi started the process two weeks ago. With the troubles at Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, perhaps as his reference point, Draghi struck back at European bankers’ criticism of the ECB’s negative interest rate policies, which the banks blame for their difficulty in turning a profit. While accepting some of the responsibility for that, he instead said a good part of the blame belongs to the commercial banks themselves.

“Low-interest rates tend to squeeze net interest margins owing to downward rigidity in banks’ deposit rates,” Draghi admitted. “But over-banking is also a factor in the current low level of bank profitability. Overcapacity in some national banking sectors and the ensuing intensity of competition exacerbates this squeeze on margins.”

He was quickly seconded by other members of the European establishment, who make the rules that others have to live by the best they can. Continue reading "Central Bank Chutzpah"

Fed To Markets: See You In 2019

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

The Federal Reserve has made it pretty clear, by its actions if not by many of its pronouncements, that, like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, it really would prefer not to do anything. Now it looks like it’s planning to take off not just the rest of this year but the next couple of years, too.

Instead of no rate increase this year, which is looking more and more like a done deal, we may not see higher rates until 2019 at the earliest, at least according to one Fed official.

Last week, as expected, the Fed left interest rates unchanged while lowering expectations for future rate increases, both this year and beyond. In arriving at that decision, which was unanimous, the Fed’s monetary policy committee cited recent weakness in the jobs market, previously an area of relative strength in the economy. Continue reading "Fed To Markets: See You In 2019"

Euro Out Of The Woods?

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex

No doubt the most dramatic event of the FX market this past week was the ECB decision. Draghi, it seems, has finally "cut the mustard." He delivered a powerful response to the latest softness in Eurozone inflation. Essentially, the ECB expanded its QE program to €80Bln of purchases a month and pushed the deposit rate lower into negative territory. But if you expected these moves to play right into the bears' hands (as it has in times past) you might be in for a surprise.

Eurozone: The Good vs. Bad

When the Euro ended up higher in the aftermath of the ECB decision many were caught off guard. Some claimed the Euro's reprieve was the result of Draghi's rhetoric which suggested no more "bazookas" anytime soon.

But what seems more probable is that Draghi's words might just be the consequence rather than the cause. That is the consequence of some green shots that had started to appear in the latest Eurozone data. Those readings suggested that printing money until the apocalypse was not necessarily needed. That's what we call the "good news."

Below are two important indicators for the Eurozone; the balance of trade and industrial production. Both indicators are keenly scrutinized for this export-oriented region.

EU Industrial Production vs. EU Balance Of Trade
Chart courtesy of Tradingeconomics

The balance of trade figure has upticked higher and reaffirmed its rising trend from 2012. This suggests that the Eurozone exports more goods than it buys. Continue reading "Euro Out Of The Woods?"