Is The Market Overreacting?

Like a junkie pleading for another fix, the financial markets tanked again last Friday after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told CNBC that he sees the Federal Reserve raising interest rates before the end of next year, a year or so before the Fed announced two days earlier that it plans to do so.

This is surely ironic since in the years following the 2008 financial crisis, Bullard was one of the most dovish members of the Fed, reliably arguing for monetary accommodation long after his fellow Fed members had moved on to raising interest rates. Now it appears that Bullard, based on his comments last week, has turned positively hawkish, at least compared to his Fed brethren.

"I put us starting in late 2022," Bullard said. "This is a bigger year than we were expecting, more inflation than we were expecting. I think it's natural that we've tilted a little bit more hawkish here to contain inflationary pressures."

By contrast, following the end of its June monetary policy meeting two days earlier, the Fed indicated that it doesn't expect to raise interest rates until the end of 2023. Yet that set off a selloff in the markets because it was more aggressive than its previous estimate in March when it said it didn't expect to raise rates until 2024 at the earliest.

The Fed's updated median outlook is now calling for up to two rate increases in 2023. According to the Fed's new "dot plot" projections, 13 of 18 Fed voting members expect to raise short-term rates by the end of 2023, up from seven in March. Back then, most members anticipated holding rates steady through 2023.

Bullard isn't currently a voting member of the Fed's monetary policy committee, but he will be next year. Continue reading "Is The Market Overreacting?"

What Happens When The Fed Starts Selling?

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

The financial markets have been fixated for years at the prospect of interest rate increases by the Federal Reserve but have largely ignored the $4.5 trillion elephant in the room, namely the Fed’s gargantuan balance sheet. But last week several members of the Fed began publicly discussing their support to finally start winding down that massive portfolio.

Way back before the global financial crisis, the Fed’s portfolio held pretty steady in the high $800 billion to low $900 billion range. Then, as the crisis hit full force in the last three months of 2008 after the Lehman Brothers collapse, the portfolio more than doubled, ending that year at slightly north of $2 trillion. While the worst of the crisis may have been reached at that point, that was only the beginning of the balance sheet’s growth.

Between the end of 2008 until the end of 2012, the Fed’s portfolio grew gradually by another $800 billion or so, before spiking again, adding another $2 trillion over the next two years as the Fed embarked on quantitative easing. Eventually the portfolio reached $4.5 trillion, including both Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, at the end of 2014, where it has held largely steady ever since. Continue reading "What Happens When The Fed Starts Selling?"

Fed To Markets: See You In 2019

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

The Federal Reserve has made it pretty clear, by its actions if not by many of its pronouncements, that, like Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, it really would prefer not to do anything. Now it looks like it’s planning to take off not just the rest of this year but the next couple of years, too.

Instead of no rate increase this year, which is looking more and more like a done deal, we may not see higher rates until 2019 at the earliest, at least according to one Fed official.

Last week, as expected, the Fed left interest rates unchanged while lowering expectations for future rate increases, both this year and beyond. In arriving at that decision, which was unanimous, the Fed’s monetary policy committee cited recent weakness in the jobs market, previously an area of relative strength in the economy. Continue reading "Fed To Markets: See You In 2019"