Stocks jumped to new record highs and the Dow shot past 20,600 on Wednesday after more reports showed the U.S. economy continues to strengthen.
The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 107 points, up 0.5% to a new closing high of 20,611.86.
Also building upon their record highs set in the previous session were the S&P 500 and Nasdaq composite, up 0.5% to 2349.25 and 0.6% to 5819.44, respectively.
The encouraging data could push the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates more aggressively from the record lows marked during the Great Recession.
Wednesday’s economic reports give the Federal Reserve more encouragement to raise interest rates, and economists said the possibility is increasing that it may happen at the central bank’s next meeting in March. Retailers had stronger sales in January than economists expected, and inflation at the consumer level was the highest in years. Consumer prices rose 2.5% in January from a year earlier, the highest rate since March 2012.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in testimony before a Congressional committee that the strengthening job market and a modest move higher in inflation should warrant continued, gradual increases in interest rates, echoing her comments from a day earlier. The central bank raised rates in December for just the second time in a decade, after keeping rates at nearly zero to help lift the economy out of the Great Recession.
The Bank of Japan’s holdings of Japanese government bonds has topped 40% of the outstanding balance for the first time, the central bank said Wednesday.
The BOJ has been snapping up JGBs in large quantities since it implemented drastic monetary easing measures in April 2013.
Statistics released by the bank show that its JGB holdings stood at about 358 trillion yen ($3.19 trillion) as of the end of January, or about 40% of the outstanding total of some 894 trillion yen.
Last September, the BOJ switched its policy focus from quantity to interest rates, aiming to keep long-term rates at around 0% to achieve its inflation target. Nevertheless, its JGB holdings continue to rise, with the bank sticking to its annual target of 80 trillion yen for JGB purchases.
With the amount of such bonds circulating in the market declining, “the bank will reach the limits of its bond purchase program as early as the first half of 2019,” said Takenobu Nakashima of Nomura Securities.
The Bank of Japan is poised to upgrade its three-year economic growth outlook in the final days of January in light of strong recent indicators, though stronger inflation forecasts will be a harder sell.
The central bank will compile its quarterly outlook on economic activity and prices at a two-day policy meeting beginning Monday. The report will outline the BOJ’s forecast for each of the three years through fiscal 2018,
The last report, released in November, pegged gross-domestic product growth at 1% for fiscal 2016, 1.3% for fiscal 2017 and a slim 0.9% for fiscal 2018. Discussions this time are expected to center on the first two years, with the fiscal 2017 growth forecast thought to be headed for the mid-1% range.
Signs for an upgrade are strong. The BOJ in December boosted its outlook for Japan’s economy as a whole for the first time in 19 months. Such goods as smartphone parts and automobiles are driving up exports and industrial production, while consumer spending on durable goods such as cars is on the rebound as well. Changes made late last year to the GDP calculation method will also give the figure a boost: companies’ research and development spending, which has shown consistent growth over the years, now counts as investment.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said at a World Economic Forum panel discussion Jan. 20 that he expects Japan’s economy to grow by around 1.5% in fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017, significantly exceeding the country’s potential growth rate.
With President Donald Trump’s litany of executive orders grabbing the limelight, investors turn their attention back to central banks and economic data next week.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December monetary policy meeting showed that the central bank could be forced to lift rates higher than expected if Congress passes Donald Trump’s economy-boosting tax cuts. So, when the Fed meets next week investors will be watching the Federal Open Market Committee’s statement for the Fed’s view on the US economy and inflation.
Economists widely expect the central bank will leave interest rates unchanged, noting that the absence of a press conference with Fed chair Janet Yellen leaves little room for major shifts in policy. “The February FOMC meeting should come and go with little market implications,” Tom Porcelli, economist at RBC Capital Markets, said. “The Fed is likely to continue to strike a positive tone on the economy and they may upgrade their inflation characterization toward a slightly more hawkish slant in the wake of headline CPI now breaching 2%.”
Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan’s meeting next week marks the one-year anniversary of its adoption of negative interest rate policy. The central bank is not expected to change its policy but it will provide updates on economic growth and inflation.
“Next week’s BoJ meeting should reveal a resolute central bank in its yield curve control framework,” Mazen Issa at TD Securities, said. “We expect the BoJ to be side-lined on all fronts. Speculative ‘taper talk’ is premature though we think this dynamic will need to be reassessed in the coming months.”
Elsewhere, the Bank of England is also expected to leave policy unchanged and update its forecasts as it unveils the inflation report. Economists expect the BoE to maintain a neutral stance on policy.
With the world facing uncertainty over the new administration in Washington, the Japanese central bank is among the many keeping their eyes peeled.
The yen’s depreciation against the dollar since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election in November has given the Bank of Japan some much-needed breathing room, as a weaker home currency will likely buoy the economy and consumer prices here.
BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda welcomed the prospect of the yen softening on the back of a robust American economy, saying Trump’s planned tax cuts and infrastructure spending would lift the economies of the U.S. and the world.
The BOJ could watch from the sidelines without having to roll out more monetary easing — a particularly helpful development for a central bank nearly out of easing options.
“The specifics of economic policy under the Trump administration have not become clear,” according to BOJ Deputy Gov. Hiroshi Nakaso. But the bank apparently expects lower taxes and other anticipated economic measures to boost the economy.
Feeling “humiliated” by events since demonetisation, RBI employees today wrote to Governor Urjit Patel protesting against operational “mismanagement” in the exercise and Government impinging its autonomy by appointing an official for currency coordination.
In a letter, they said autonomy and image of RBI has been “dented beyond repair” due to mismanagement and termed appointment of a senior Finance Ministry official as a “blatant encroachment” of its exclusive turf of currency management.
“An image of efficiency and independence that RBI assiduously built up over decades by the strenuous efforts of its staff and judicious policy making has gone into smithereens in no time. We feel extremely pained,” the United Forum of Reserve Bank Officers and Employees said in the letter addressed to Patel.
Commenting on “mismanagement” since November 8, when note ban was announced, and the criticism from different quarters, the letter said, “It’s (RBI’s) autonomy and image have been dented beyond repair.”
At least two of the four signatories — Samir Ghosh of All India Reserve Bank Employees Association and Suryakant Mahadik of All India Reserve Bank Workers Federation — confirmed the letter. The other signatories are C M Paulsil of All India Reserve Bank Officers Association and R N Vatsa of RBI Officers Association.
The forum represents over 18,000 employees of the RBI across the ranks, Ghosh said.
In a decision that will bring big cheer to the common man, the RBI (Reserve Bank Of India) has hiked the daily ATM withdrawal limit to Rs 4,500 per card. This would come as a huge relief to people who stand in queues for a long time and still manage to get only Rs 2,500.
In its latest notification, the RBI said, “The daily limit of withdrawal from ATMs has been increased (within the overall weekly limits specified) with effect from January 01, 2017, from the existing Rs 2500/- to Rs 4500/- per day per card. There is no change in weekly withdrawal limits.Such disbursals should predominantly be in the denomination of Rs 500.”
The current withdrawal limit per bank account per week has not been revised, a fact that is likely to disappoint people.
The Narendra Modi government’s move to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes has largely been supported by the common man, though most agree that the implementation could have been better planned and executed. Long queues at banks and ATMs were a common sight in the first few days since the historic decision was announced by PM Modi on November 8. The situation has admittedly improved since then, but with increase in the daily limits, the government and banking system must work to ensure that ATMs have enough cash. But even as the central bank has eased the ATM withdrawal limit, the government is leaving no stone unturned to promote cashless transactions.
The Bank of Japan revised its economic outlook for the first time in 19 months during the two-day policy meeting that ended Tuesday. But that is apparently the only step the central bank is taking at this time.
“The headwinds seen in the first half of this year have ceased,” BOJ Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters following the meeting. Markets were riled by heightened concerns directed at emerging economies at the beginning of 2016, only to be shocked in June by Britain’s referendum to exit the European Union. The BOJ was forced to loosen its policy in July, raising its target for exchange-traded fund purchases.
During the second half of 2016, the economic landscape has slowly brightened, beginning with U.S. readings. The Japanese economy has followed suit with increased exports and production. Consumption also recovered from a slump caused by a soft stock market and inclement weather at the beginning of the year.
“Japan’s economy has continued its moderate recovery trend,” the BOJ said in a statement published after the meeting. The central bank had previously qualified that view by highlighting sluggish exports and production.
EM ended the weak on a soft note, as the hawkish Fed decision continued to have reverberations for global markets. Worst performers in EM last week were CLP (-3.3%), ZAR (-2%), and KRW (-1.5%). With little fundamental news expected this week, markets may take a more consolidative tone, especially with the holidays approaching. However, we continue to believe that the global backdrop for EM remains negative.
Several EM central banks meet, including Turkey, Hungary, Czech Republic, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Thailand. None are expected to move except Turkey, which is likely to hike rates for the second straight month in response to the weak lira. We were surprised by Colombia’s rate cut last Friday, and expect the peso to open weaker this week as a result.
Poland reports November industrial and construction output, real retail sales, and unemployment Monday. Consensus forecasts are 1.7% y/y, -18.9% y/y, 5.3% y/y, and 5.5%, respectively. Central bank minutes will be released Thursday. Recently, central bank Governor Glapinski said that the next move is likely to be hike but unlikely until 2018. CPI was flat y/y in November, the first non-negative reading since June 2014. Low base effects should see the y/y move sharply higher in 2017, and should move the timing of the first rate hike forward into 2017.
Taiwan reports November export orders Tuesday, which are expected to rise 6.0% y/y vs. 0.3% in October. The central bank meets Thursday and is expected to keep rates steady at 1.375%. The last move was a 12.5 bp cut back in June, and then left rates steady at its next quarterly meeting in September. November IP will be reported Friday, and is expected to rise 5.2% y/y vs. 3.7% in October.