Now It Begins, But How Will It End?

As expected, the Federal Reserve raised its target interest rate by 25 basis points last Wednesday, as Fed Chair Jerome Powell said two weeks ago that it would do. What was surprising was that the Fed also telegraphed that it plans to raise rates six more times this year, to at least 1.75% by the end of this year, and four times next year, with fed funds ending at around 2.75% by the end of 2023.

That was a lot more aggressive than some observers, including this one, had expected. Yet the market seemed happy with it. After a brief initial sell-off, stocks soon resumed their upward path, apparently because they liked the certainty it provided, at least for now, as well as the gradual nature of the Fed’s schedule.

But how certain can we be? Will the Fed really carry through with this, or will it revert to its easy-money ways? And even if it does do what it says it plans to do, will it be enough to get inflation under control while at the same time avoiding pushing the economy into recession?

We’ll have to wait and see. Continue reading "Now It Begins, But How Will It End?"

Interest Rates Are Going To Go Higher

Even while the Russian-Ukraine conflict continues to rage on, the fact of the matter is the US, and honestly, the majority of the world is dealing with higher-than-expected inflation. And the most direct way to bring that inflation back down to sustainable levels is for the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world to take action and increase interest rates.

Prior to the Russian-Ukraine situation occurring, it was widely expected that the Federal Reserve would raise the benchmark interest rate by 0.5% in March. However, now that the war in Ukraine is occurring, many believe the Fed will only increase rates to 0.25% in March and reassess the situation at the following meeting.

However, even while most market participants expect a rate hike of just 0.25%, some Fed officials still believe that a 1.00% rate hike is justified in March. While there is talk of the 1% hike, very few believe it will occur in March, especially since the Russia-Ukraine situation.

Furthermore, market participants also need to consider when and how quickly the Federal Reserve decides to start winding down its balance sheet. Some believe when the Fed begins that process, it could have more of an effect on interest rates than when the Fed actually raises rates since the Fed was a huge buyer of bonds. Since the bond market and bond interest rates are essentially determined by supply and demand, if demand is weak due to limited buyers, the interest rates will increase until buyers step in. With the Fed no longer buying and potentially selling bonds, supply will be high, which will require much more attractive yields in order to entice investors to step in and buy bonds.

So as an investor, how can you profit from this information? Continue reading "Interest Rates Are Going To Go Higher"

What's Behind the Fed's Inflation Obsession?

George Yacik - 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?"

Janet From Another Planet

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

For most of the past 10 years the financial markets have been led if not actually directed by the all-knowing, all-seeing Federal Reserve. But over the past year or so the roles have changed, or at least the markets have basically stopped listening to the Fed.

Case in point: Last week the Fed, largely as expected, voted 8-to-1 to raise short-term interest rates by another 25 basis points; Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, who wanted to keep rates unchanged, was the lone dissenter. The Fed has now raised its benchmark federal funds rate three times since last December.

Normally, that move should have induced long-term rates – which are set by traders and investors in the bond market, not the Fed – to rise, too. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, long-term rates have gone in the other direction, falling to their lowest levels since last November, to the point where the yield curve – the difference between short-term and long-term rates – has flattened out to a point we haven’t seen in years.

Last week the yield on the U.S. Treasury’s benchmark 10-year note ended at 2.15%, which is down nearly 50 basis points from a recent high of 2.63% three months ago. Over that same period, the yield on the three-month T-bill has risen by about 25 bps, from 0.75% to 1.01%. That means the difference between the two has been cut to about 115 bps from 188 bps in just three months.

Why the disconnect between what the Fed is doing, and thinks is happening, and what the bond market perceives is really happening? Continue reading "Janet From Another Planet"

The Odds Of A Fed Rate Hike In June Just Got Smaller

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

Still think the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at its monetary policy meeting next week? Last Friday’s jobs report for May should make you rethink that notion. But it’s not the only reason.

Prior to the release of the report – which showed that the economy added just 138,000 jobs last month, nearly 50,000 below expectations, while the previous two months were revised downward by 66,000– the market consensus called for the Fed to raise rates by 25 basis points at its June 13-14 meeting. That doesn’t seem like such a sure thing anymore.

After its last meeting on May 2-3, when it took no action on rates largely because of a weaker-than-expected economy in the first quarter, the Fed said it expected the slowdown was “likely to be transitory.” Now, however, we have a pretty substantial body of evidence that indicate fairly strongly, if not consistently, that the slowdown has continued well into the second quarter. Continue reading "The Odds Of A Fed Rate Hike In June Just Got Smaller"