Put The Blame On Me

At least since the global financial crisis of 2008, Federal Reserve officials have, by and large, denied or downplayed the idea that their zero-interest-rate policies and mammoth bond purchases have artificially inflated financial assets even as the Fed is buying trillions – with a capital T – of U.S. Treasury and mortgage-backed securities markets and more recently corporate bonds. Now the presidents of a few of the Fed’s regional banks are suggesting that the Fed study whether its monetary policies are encouraging overly risky investor behavior.

Loretta Mester, the president of the Cleveland Fed, conceded that prolonged periods of low rates could incite “higher levels of borrowing and financial leverage, increased valuation pressures, and search-for-yield behavior.”

“While monetary policy that leads to a stable macroeconomy encourages financial stability, it is also possible that in an environment with low neutral rates, a persistently accommodative monetary policy could, in some cases, increase the vulnerabilities of the financial system,” she said.

Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren went even further, suggesting that the Fed “rethink” financial regulation – but apparently not monetary policy – to rein in speculative behavior. Continue reading "Put The Blame On Me"

The Dollar Breaking Point

Lior Alkalay - INO.com Contributor - Forex

Last week, the Fed released its FOMC minutes, the protocol of the Fed's decision makers, and already it seems to have backfired. While the minutes thoroughly described how FOMC committee members have gradually shifted their projections on inflation and a lower Fed Funds Rate, comments that were supposed to gently assist in tilting the dollar lower have done the exact opposite.

FOMC Minutes Backfire

The Fed's statement contained two comments that were combined or written in such a way that investors immediately became wary of shorting the dollar. The first, was the remark on the fact that excess capacity and downward pressure in commodities was seen as winding down gradually thus keeping the Fed's long-term inflation target of 2% (or close to it) still intact. So far so good, yet the Fed also added a statement on what is holding back the possible rate hike and that is low energy prices and a strong dollar. In other words, the Fed outlined that a lower dollar would increase the chances of a rate Continue reading "The Dollar Breaking Point"

Does the big GDP revision get us any closer to 'normal' rates?

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

Will Tuesday’s GDP upgrade to its fastest growth in more than 10 years nudge – or push – the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates earlier than Janet Yellen recently signaled, i.e., no earlier than the first quarter of next year?
Alas, probably not.

The final revised estimate for third quarter GDP showed the economy growing at a robust 5% annualized rate, the fastest pace in 11 years. That was far higher than the previous estimate of 3.9% and well above both the 4.3% rate the Street was looking for as well as the most optimistic individual forecast of 4.5%. It was also up from the second quarter’s growth rate of 4.6%.

Ninety minutes later, the Commerce Department came out with another report that showed personal spending rising 0.6% in November, the most in three months, while personal income gained 0.4%, the strongest pace in five months.

A week earlier, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association predicted that GDP growth would hit 3% next year, which it says “would be the strongest growth in nearly a decade.”

If this latest batch of strong economic news still doesn’t convince the Fed that it should start raising interest rates sooner than it indicated only a week before, we can only conclude that the Fed has lost sight of its statutory mandate, namely to “foster maximum employment and price stability.”

Instead, it has become how to best finesse its extrication from its near-zero interest rate policy and start raising rates without setting off a giant market selloff. So the easy thing to do, as most other major decisions are made in Washington, is to do nothing and deal with it later, whenever that is. Which of course by then the problem will have grown much worse and much more difficult to deal with.

At its FOMC monetary policy meeting the week before, the Fed said that it “judges that it can be patient” in normalizing monetary policy, adding that “it likely will be appropriate” to maintain its near zero target rate range for a Continue reading "Does the big GDP revision get us any closer to 'normal' rates?"