The Powell Era Begins

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


New Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell had all kinds of excuses not to raise interest rates at last week’s FOMC meeting:

  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was trading close to its highest point in more than four years and dangerously close to breaking the 3% barrier.
  • Stocks have fallen well off their highs, and investors are nervous about the prospects of a potential trade war between the U.S. and its biggest trading partners, particularly China and Canada.
  • The threat of that trade war has influenced some economic forecasters to lower their GDP growth forecasts for the first quarter to below 2%, which would be the lowest level since President Trump took office.
  • The turmoil in the Trump Administration, with cabinet secretaries and other senior officials jumping ship or being pushed overboard, doesn’t help calm the waters.

Yet Powell and the seven other voting members of the Federal Open Market Committee saw fit to raise the federal funds rate by a quarter percentage point to a range between 1.5% and 1.75%. Not only that, but the FOMC stuck to its guns and indicated a steady diet of rate increases over the next three years, pushing rates closer and closer back to what used to be normal before the global financial crisis. After three rate increases this year, three more are likely next year followed by two more in 2020, which would boost the fed funds rates to a range of 3.25% and 3.5%.

And yet the world didn’t end. In fact, the yields on Treasury securities actually fell after the meeting ended on Wednesday afternoon. The 10-year note, the bond market’s long-term benchmark, trading just below 2.90% on Tuesday, fell five basis points after the meeting to 2.85%. The yield on the two-year note, which is more sensitive to interest rate changes, dropped seven bps after the meeting. Continue reading "The Powell Era Begins"

Higher Bond Yields In 2018?

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


As a homeowner in a high-tax Blue state, I’m not sure I have a whole lot to be personally happy about in the Trump tax reform bill. My state’s government, which is already teetering financially, isn’t likely to reduce its own taxes to compensate for the cap on deducting state and local taxes. Nevertheless, I’m happy that the measure passed.

For one thing, it’s heartening to see the Republicans stand fast for a change and actually follow through on something their constituents have demanded and expected from them, rather than caving in the face of criticism from their liberal opponents in Congress and the press. I’m also getting a lot of enjoyment listening to the breathless hyperbole by Nancy “Armageddon” Pelosi, Chuck “Fake Tears” Schumer and the gang denouncing the bill, plus the stories by their allies in the press about the “victims” of tax reform, neglecting to mention the “victims” at AT&T, Wells Fargo and all who are being given immediate raises as a result of the measure.

Not a whole lot has been written or said about one of the more likely consequences of the package, and that’s that interest rates are going to move higher in 2018.

Already, in just a few days leading up to the passage of the bill, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note jumped 15 basis points to 2.50%, its highest level since last March and just 10 or so bps below its high for the year. It’s likely to rise further in 2018. Here’s why. Continue reading "Higher Bond Yields In 2018?"

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?"

So The Fed Raised Rates: Why Is the Market Acting Surprised?

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


It never ceases to amaze me how some people still react to and hang on to the words of former authoritative figures long after they’ve ceased to be relevant.

The other day 76-year-old Martin Sheen – Charlie’s father, for those under 40 – led a group of liberal has-beens and C-list “celebrities” urging Republican members of the Electoral College not to authenticate Donald Trump’s election. Does Sheen really believe people still care about what he thinks, if they ever did? Guess so.

While I admit that Janet Yellen and the other members of the Federal Reserve have hardly reached Martin Sheen status as irrelevant, I have to wonder about the market’s reaction to Wednesday’s decision by the Fed to raise interest rates an entire quarter point. Why did anyone care? Continue reading "So The Fed Raised Rates: Why Is the Market Acting Surprised?"