More mistakes from the Fed… The Fed should act now to raise rates, or risk being further behind the curve.
Essentially, the Fed has a dual mandate… to maintain full employment and price stability. Wage growth sits at the intersection of these objectives. Currently wage pressure is growing, alongside inflationary forces, and loose monetary settings could see this trend accelerate, leaving the Fed further behind the curve. The Fed needs to act now to raise rates in order to temper the ‘medium term inflationary’ pressures that are already building.
Is the Fed really ‘data dependent’?
What the FOMC will do vs. what they should are very different things. There always seems to be ‘another’ concern that keeps the Fed on hold. Earlier in 2016 it was the strong US dollar and market volatility. Now it’s soft jobs numbers and the possibility of Britain leaving the EU. Aside from last month’s soft employment numbers, the recovery remains on track in the US – consumption and lending indicators are robust – and not near any emergency levels, as interest rate settings would currently indicate.
While the Fed claims data dependence, the short answer is no, it isn’t. We believe that the Fed is ‘market dependent’ and attempting to manage market expectations is a dangerous game in economics. Uncertainty exists and central banks are on the front lines of the war against volatility. Yet the Fed’s reticence to do what it ‘should’ risks causing more volatility. Extreme asset market volatility has moderated but policy uncertainty threatens the fragility of current market sentiment. The longer the Fed delays, the higher the volatility is likely to become.
Mistakes are being made
Fed Chair Yellen continues to stress the need for a gradual increase in interest rates. Six months between rate hikes is certainly a very gradual pace. But with another policy mistake (not raising rates in June) imminent, it’s unlikely that conditions are ever going to be perfect for the Fed to raise rates. And if conditions were perfect, the level of rates should probably be hundreds of basis points higher already.
Hawkish tone to prompt USD strength
With the market fully discounting a rate hike at this week’s Fed meeting, the risk is skewed for an upside move for the US Dollar (USD). Investors are not positioned for a bullish move for the USD, with futures market net long speculative at the lowest level since mid-2014. While we expect that the Fed will keep rate settings unchanged, we believe the more hawkish tone for Yellen’s press conference will drive USD strength in the near term.
Martin Arnold joined ETF Securities as a research analyst in 2009 and was promoted to Global FX & Commodity Strategist in 2014. Martin has a wealth of experience in strategy and economics with his most recent role formulating an FX strategy at an independent research consultancy. Martin has a strong background in macroeconomics and financial analysis – gained both at the Reserve Bank of Australia and in the private commercial banking sector – and experience covering a range of asset classes including equities and bonds. Martin holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of New South Wales (Australia), a Master of Commerce from the University of Wollongong (Australia) and attained a Graduate Diploma of Applied Finance and Investment from the Securities Institute of Australia.