Two rate hikes since last year have weakened the dollar. Why is that, and what’s ahead for dollar, currencies & gold? And while we are at it, we’ll chime in on what may be in store for the stock market…
The chart above shows the S&P 500, the price of gold and the U.S. dollar index since the beginning of 2016. The year 2016 started with a rout in the equity markets which was soon forgotten, allowing the multi-year bull market to continue. After last November’s election we have had the onset of what some refer to as the Trump rally. Volatility in the stock market has come down to what may be historic lows. Of late, many trading days appear to start on a down note, although late day rallies (possibly due to retail money flowing into index funds) are quite common.
Where do stocks go from here? Of late, we have heard outspoken money manager Jeff Gundlach suggests that bear markets only happen if the economy turns down; and that his indicators suggest that there’s no recession in sight. We agree that bear markets are more commonly associated with recessions, but with due respect to Mr. Gundlach, the October 1987 crash is a notable exception. The 1987 crash was an environment that suffered mostly from valuations that had gotten too high; an environment where nothing could possibly go wrong: the concept of “portfolio insurance” was en vogue at the time. Without going into detail of how portfolio insurance worked, let it be said that it relied on market liquidity. The market took a serious nosedive when the linkage between the S&P futures markets and their underlying stocks broke down.
With a rate rise in the books investors get to hear from a handful of Federal Reserve speakers next week. On the geo-political front a hearing on Russia’s interference in the US presidential election and a meeting on combatting Isis take the spotlight.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
While the Federal Reserve decided to raise interest rates for the third time since the financial crisis, chair Janet Yellen reiterated that the pace of rate rises would be gradual and the so-called dot plot continued to signal just two additional rate rises this year. The move was interpreted by some as a dovish hike and Fed speakers could get the chance to refute that next week.
“Moreover, we’d also look for clarification on the addition of ‘symmetric’ in the press statement when it came to defining the inflation reaction function,” strategists at RBC Capital Markets said. “Our sense is that this was in an effort to put an end to inflation level targeting—also not a dovish development.”
Ms Yellen will deliver the opening keynote at the Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference in Washington on Thursday. Through the week, investors also get to hear from voting members of the monetary policy setting Federal Open Market Committee, including Chicago Fed president Charles Evans, Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan and Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari — the only voting FOMC member to dissent at the March meeting and who has explained his rationale for the move on Friday.
On the economic data front, the calendar is fairly light but investors will keep an eye on fourth quarter current account deficit figures due Tuesday and durable goods orders slated for Friday.
The odds of a March hike rose to 94% on Friday compared to 35% on Feb 23. A concerted, coordinated effort from the Fed to push up the probability was clear by the end of the week.
If she didn’t intend to stoke hike optimism, then she badly misplayed her hand. The newspaper headlines today were:
Set to Lift Interest Rate, Fed Embraces Investors’ Optimism – NYT
Yellen points to March rate hike as Fed signals end of easy money – Reuters
Yellen signals another Fed interest rate hike – PBS
Janet Yellen Indicates Federal Reserve’s Rate Rise Coming This Month – Forbes
What would it take for the Fed not to hike? How about a +50K non-farm payrolls report with weak wage growth. That would definitely make things interesting.
Barring something like that, the debate will shift to future meetings. At the moment, there’s a 10% chance priced in of a second hike on May 3. That rises to 45% by the June 14 meeting. Three hikes by year-end are about a 50/50 probability.
Stocks inched upward Friday after remarks by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pointed to a rate hike later this month.
The Dow and S&P 500 posted fractional gains. The blue chips barely finished higher on the day, up 3 points and staying above 21,000, ending at 21,005.71.
Climbing 0.2% was the Nasdaq composite, to 5870.75.
“At our meeting later this month, the 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 in a 1 p.m. ET speech at the Executives’ Club of Chicago.
While Yellen couched her remark in conditional terms that depend on economic data, she preceded it by citing a job market that has been “strengthening” and inflation that has been “rising toward our target” of 2% annually.
Several other Fed officials in recent days have indicated the Fed’s policymaking committee is likely to raise its benchmark short-term rate at a March 14-15 meeting.
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 FOMC Minutes are due today at 2 pm ET (1900 GMT)
The economic calendar is light today so it’s all about flows to start the year and the FOMC Minutes later in the day.
In general, the Minutes are a release that always gets more attention than deserved. It’s rare the report moves the market and the initial move is often reversed.
But that might not be the case this time because the FOMC hiked rates at the December meeting and left the timing on subsequent rate moves ambiguous. The big market driver was the change in the dot plot.
Here is September compared to December:
Meanwhile, in the press conference Yellen emphasized that the thinking at the Fed hadn’t changed much.
“The shifts that you see here are really very tiny,” she said about the dot plot.
The FOMC decision is out at 2 pm ET (1900 GMT). At the same time, the Fed releases the dot plot and its new round of economic projections. Roughly 30 minutes later, Janet Yellen hosts a press conference.
2) The dot dance
Where the dots are located doesn’t matter. The Fed has been higher than the market since the inception of the dot plot and has always been wrong. What matters is the movement in the overall plot. If the blue dots generally move higher, it’s a hawkish signal. If they stay where they were in September, that will be USD negative.
Oil prices surged to their highest level since July 2015 on Monday raising concerns about inflation and helped push the US 10-year Treasury yield above the 2.5 per cent mark.
The yield on the US 10-year, which moves inversely to price, climbed above 2.5 per cent for the first time in two years to 2.5005 per cent.
“The bearishness in the bond market is even more acute than the bullishness on equities,” David Rosenberg at Gluskin Sheff, said.
He added: “A wall of money is exiting the bond market into the stock market — bond fund outflows in the past five weeks are at the highest in three-and-a-half years.”
Alongside energy prices, Peter Tchir at Brean Capital also said the weakness in Japan “is concerning to global bond investors”. He noted the Bank of Japan had pledge in September to keep the 10-year yield on the Japanese government bond at or below zero per cent. Instead, the JGB is now at nearly 0.8 per cent. That “might be an indication of Central Banks losing their ability or willingness to suppress interest rates,” he said.
Despite the run up in oil prices, the S&P 500 was down 0.1 per cent to 2,257.67, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at 19,760.14 — less than 300 points shy of breaching the 20,000 level. The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.5 per cent to 5,420.70.
Investors appear to be pausing for breathe following the sharp run up in stocks in recent weeks.
Not even the threat of an interest rate hike next week from the Federal Reserve could derail the U.S. stock market’s record-setting run as Wall Street posted its best five days since the presidential election and doubled down on its bet of better times ahead under new political leadership at the White House.
The bullish vibe on Wall Street is best illustrated by the blue chip Dow Jones industrial average, which surged nearly 600 points, or 3.1%, on its way to posting a fresh all-time high on each trading day of the just-ended week.
The Dow, which is up 13.4% this year, is now within 243 points of Dow 20,000, a milestone few imagined was possible at the bottom of the bear market back on March 9, 2009, when the Dow fell to 6,547.05.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index, Nasdaq composite and small-stock Russell 2000 also finished the week at record levels.
The big gains came even though Wall Street is pricing in a nearly 100% chance of an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve Wednesday, its final meeting of the year. Wall Street is expecting a quarter of a percentage point rise by the Fed, which would mark the U.S. central bank’s first rate hike of 2016, despite forecasts at the start of the year for three or four hikes.
Following the Fed’s meeting Wednesday, Wall Street’s attention will turn to its policy statement, its updated projections for the economy, inflation and future rate hikes, as well as Fed chair Janet Yellen’s comments during a press conference with reporters.
The big run-up in stock prices, up to this point, has been based mainly on hopes that Trump’s policies will boost economic growth as well as corporate sales and profits
Even as the US breaks for Thanksgiving, there is much for investors to consider next week.
Here’s what to watch in the coming days.
The Federal Reserve in November said it would wait for “some further evidence” before raising interest rates. Since then, US labour market, GDP and retail sales data have all come in strong. Investors will now get to parse the minutes of the Fed’s meeting, even with federal fund futures currently implying a 100 per cent chance of a rate rise next month.
Moreover, the minutes of the meeting will be dated as more than a dozen Fed officials have delivered remarks this past week, including Fed chair Janet Yellen. Testifying before the Joint Economic Committee on Thursday, Ms Yellen said that an increase in short-term interest rates could “become appropriate relatively soon”. And on Friday, New York Fed president Bill Dudley said inflation expectations “certainly seem to be” well-anchored, helping cement expectations for a rate rise next month.
“That said, the balance of Committee members in favor of raising rates as soon as the next meeting will be closely watched,” analysts at TD Secirities said. “An overwhelming majority as well as more optimistic views over inflation should help further solidify December rate hike expectations.”