The "Do Nothing" Fed Does It Again

George Yacik - INO.com Contributor - federal funds rate remains unchanged


I suppose it would have been out of character or asking too much to expect Janet Yellen’s Federal Reserve, at her last meeting as Fed chair, to act decisively and do something that needed to be done. Instead, playing to form, The Fed elected not to raise the federal funds rate at its January monetary policy meeting. Now we will have to wait another two months, March 20-21, the Fed’s next meeting, for the central bank to get back to normalizing interest rates.

For most of the past four years, the Yellen-led Fed has preferred to sit on its hands and let asset bubbles get bigger and bigger and leave interest rates pretty much alone, even in the face of a burgeoning economy. Instead, it has let its obsession with inflation – it’s too low, in their view, not too high – dictate monetary policy, whether that fixation has a basis in fact or not.

Since the beginning of last September, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has soared about 75 basis points, from just over 2.00% to more than 2.75% at its most recent peak, putting it at its highest level in nearly four years. The yield on the two-year note, which is more susceptible to changes in short-term interest rate changes, is up about 90 bps in that time, to about 2.15%. Continue reading "The "Do Nothing" Fed Does It Again"

Farewell Janet, Welcome Jay

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


After four years as Federal Reserve chair, Janet Yellen makes her swansong at this week’s monetary policy meeting (no disrespect to Ms. Yellen, but it seems like a lot longer, doesn’t it?), at which time she will likely welcome her successor, Jerome Powell, who was finally confirmed by the Senate. Her term officially ends on February 3, at which time she has said she would also step down from the Fed’s Board of Governors, where she was entitled to remain for another six years.

While most observers believe Powell won’t deviate too far from the dovish, don’t-rock-the-boat policies of his predecessor, I think he’s likely to be a little more hawkish in raising interest rates, if for no other reason than to skim some of the froth from the stock market. Another quarter-point increase in the federal funds rate at next week’s meeting would be a good signal about what to expect from the Powell Fed going forward.

I’m still not entirely sold that inflation won’t at some point in the future rear its ugly head once again, mandating a more aggressive interest rate-raising policy, but the bond market – based on still relatively low long-term Treasury bond rates – apparently has yet to be convinced. Still, inflation, whether just boiling under the surface or several years down the road, isn’t the only reason the Fed needs to be more hawkish. Taking some air out of asset bubbles – whether they be in old-fashioned equities or yet-to-be-tested cybercurrencies – that has primarily been the result of the Fed’s overly accommodative monetary policies is a good enough reason to do so. Continue reading "Farewell Janet, Welcome Jay"

Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms

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


I’ve been pretty harsh in this column on Federal Reserve monetary policy, but the one area that I haven’t written much about– financial regulation – is probably the main area where the Fed does deserve a lot of credit.

In her speech at the Jackson Hole symposium late last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen probably disappointed a lot of market watchers for her failure to talk about interest rates or unwinding the Fed’s balance sheet. Instead, she spent most of her speech defending the Fed’s actions in the regulatory realm in the wake of the global financial crisis and pushed back against critics who want to roll back those regulations, including President Trump, who vowed that he wants to “do a big number” on Dodd-Frank.

If Yellen wants to be reappointed to her position by Trump when it ends in February, she certainly didn’t sound like it. Then again, making comments in opposition to Trump is hardly a heroic stance.

Still, she deserves credit for defending the Fed’s position on bank regulation, and the next Fed chair, whether it’s Yellen, Gary Cohn, or someone else, should stick with the current policy, which will go a long way toward keeping our banking system safe and secure and make sure that the global financial crisis doesn’t repeat itself. After all, if you can’t trust keeping your money in a bank, nothing else matters. Continue reading "Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms"

Can The Fed Drop Interest Rates Below 0%?

By: Elliott Wave International

This question is not as preposterous as it may seem.

For the financial markets, the biggest event of the week starts tomorrow: On Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 10-11) Fed chair Janet Yellen will appear before Congress to deliver her semi-annual Monetary Policy Report.

"It's huge." That's how one strategist put it this morning, in a CNBC interview about the importance of Yellen's testimony.

Why are all eyes on Yellen? Maybe because by now, almost everyone has forgotten how powerless the Fed appeared in 2007-2009, when none of its measures could stop the financial crisis. Despite the recent market chaos, six years of rising stock prices reaffirmed the notion that the Fed can move mountains. "As the Fed goes, so do the markets" is the current mantra -- so, on Wednesday and Thursday, analysts will be listening carefully: Will Yellen mention the ongoing market turmoil? Continue reading "Can The Fed Drop Interest Rates Below 0%?"

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

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


Surprise, surprise. The Fed isn't going to raise rates in June after all.

While the just-released minutes of the Fed's April 28-29 monetary policy meeting revealed the central bank "did not rule" out the possibility of raising rates at its June 16-17 meeting, "many participants thought it unlikely that the data available would provide sufficient confirmation that the conditions for raising the target range for the federal funds rate had been satisfied."

In other words, economic reports over the past several months haven't come close to giving the Fed comfort to start normalizing monetary policy – i.e., raising rates – without jeopardizing growth, or what little there has been recently.

In the first quarter, U.S. GDP rose only 0.2%, down from the 2.2% growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2014. But economists are now expecting that figure to be revised downward next Friday, possibly to show negative growth. Continue reading "The Waiting Is The Hardest Part"