The only thing standing in the way of an interest rate hike this week is the blizzard that’s supposed to hit the Northeast corridor on Tuesday, which might postpone the Federal Reserve meeting (unless they meet by conference call) but it only delays the inevitable.
If the verdict hadn’t been sealed already, it surely was after last Friday’s February jobs report. The Labor Department reported that nonfarm payrolls rose by 235,000, well above the consensus estimate of 200,000 and at the high end of individual forecasts. Labor also upwardly revised January’s figure to 238,000, making it the best back-to-back performance since last July. At the same time, the unemployment rate fell to 4.7% while the labor participation rate rose another tick to 63.0%. Wages grew 2.8% compared to a year earlier.
The report was actually the second strong jobs story of the week. ADP said private sector payrolls jumped by 298,000 last month, beating the consensus forecast by more than 100,000.
While I’m reluctant to give a president who’s been in office less than two months much credit for this showing, I think we have to give President Trump more than a few props for it. Despite the daily barrage of attacks, negative stories and fake news in the so-called mainstream press on Trump, unquestionably he has almost single-handedly changed the investment tone in this country since he was elected. First, it showed up in the stock market; now it’s starting to goose the employment numbers. Continue reading "Snow Can't Dampen Brighter Employment News"→
In my previous post, I ended with the words, “Beware the Ides of March.” Well, if Janet Yellen and her friends on the Federal Reserve are to be believed, the Fed will raise interest rates on that day, and maybe several times after that later this year. Which leaves us with the uncomfortable thought of what happens to the bull market in stocks – and bonds, for that matter, too – that has been running virtually without interruption since the Fed dropped rates to zero back in 2008. Can the bulls continue to run without that prop?
If there were still any lingering doubts that the Fed would raise rates at its meeting next week, Yellen pretty much put those to rest in her speech in San Francisco last Friday. “At our meeting later this month, the [Fed’s monetary policy] committee will evaluate whether employment and inflation are continuing to evolve in line with our expectations, in which case a further adjustment of the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate,” Yellen said, adding that “the economy has essentially met the employment portion of our mandate and inflation is moving closer to our 2% objective.” That speech followed similar comments from several other Fed officials during the week. Continue reading "The Ides of March Approach"→
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s January 31-February 1 meeting released last week said we can expect another interest rate increase “fairly soon,” which many people think means at the March 14-15 meeting, just two weeks away. But the bond market doesn’t seem to be buying it. Why not?
According to the minutes, “many participants expressed the view that it might be appropriate to raise the federal funds rate again fairly soon if incoming information on the labor market and inflation was in line with or stronger than their current expectations or if the risks of overshooting the committee’s maximum-employment and inflation objectives increased.”
At her Congressional testimony a week earlier, Fed Chair Janet Yellen was even more hawkish, warning that “waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession.” That doesn’t sound like someone who’s willing to wait until May, the Fed’s next monetary policy meeting after March (there’s no meeting in April). Continue reading "Why Doesn't The Bond Market Trust The Fed?"→
We are well along in the precious metals correction and have downside targets for gold, silver and the miners. In order for that to be a ‘buy’, the sector and macro fundamentals will need to be in order. Some of those are represented by the gold ratio charts vs. various assets and markets. Below are two important ones.
Gold vs. Stock Markets has been correcting the big macro change to the upside since leading the entire global market relief phase (potentially out of the grips of global deflation) earlier in the year. A hold of these moving averages, generally speaking, keeps a key gold sector fundamental in play as the implication is that conventional casino patrons are choosing gold over their traditional go-to assets, stocks. A breakdown from the moving averages and it’s back to Pallookaville for the gold “community”.
What a difference a week makes. Two weeks ago the odds were heavily against the Federal Reserve raising interest rates before September. Now it seems the market consensus believes the Fed will raise rates before the end of the summer, either at its June or July meeting (there is no meeting in August). I for one am still not convinced.
While I think the Fed certainly should raise rates at its next meeting – but then I thought they should have begun tightening monetary policy two years ago – I still don’t think it has the cojones to do so, despite some recent comments to the contrary. I also think politics will play a bigger role in a rate decision than many market observers believe. Indeed, I haven’t heard many of them bringing up that point. More on that in a minute.