Fed Trims Dots and Remains Cautious

March 17, 2016

FX News Today

European Outlook: Asian stock markets outside Japan moved higher overnight, following on from gains in the U.S. after the FOMC trimmed its dot plot to imply just two tightening’s in 2016, which aligns the Fed’s view with the market. Japanese markets were weighed down by renewed strength in the Yen, following the dovish Fed statement. U.S. and U.K. stock futures are also up and oil prices are starting to eye USD 39 per barrel. So good leads for European stock markets, but also bond futures and with the Fed statement out of the way the focus shifts to BoE and SNB meetings today.

Fed Trims Dots and Remains Cautious: The FOMC statement reflects ongoing caution on global economic and financial developments, though optimism was maintained on the domestic front, and especially with regard to the labor market. The Fed also raised the profile of inflation, which “picked up” but remains shy of its target. The Fed’s mostly downward forecast revisions for the dot-plot and GDP, along with steadier inflation and job outlooks, left the markets taking a dovish cue from the proceedings, though Yellen left open the door for a move as early as April. She also the Fed is “not activity debating or considering negative rates,” or looking into other methods of accommodation. The Fed still has a range of tools it can use if it finds itself back in that situation of needing to add more stimulus. The adoption and impact of negative rates by other central banks is being studied.

UK Chancellor Osborne announced GBP 3.5 bln in spending cuts as he presents the government’s 2016-17 budget. He said that cuts would be implemented towards the end of the current parliament, in 2019-20. On the Brexit issue, he argued that the UK is “better off” inside a “reformed” EU and that the official UK growth forecasts from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility were based on the country remaining within the union. UK growth was revised down to 2.0% for 2016, down from 2.4% forecast in November, and 2.2% in 2017, down from 2.5% previously envisaged. He quoted the OBR’s view that leaving the EU would “usher in an extended period of uncertainty.”

CPI better than expected. The 0.168% February US. CPI drop was upstaged by a sturdy 0.283% core price rise, as the expected 6.0% energy price drop and 0.2% food price rise accompanied hefty gains of 1.6% for apparel prices that extended a 0.6% January rise, a second consecutive 0.5% rise for medical care service prices, and a 0.3% rise for owners’ equivalent rent after four consecutive 0.2% increases. We saw 0.2% gains for new vehicle and tobacco prices.

Main Macro Events Today

BoE Decision: There is a strong consensus for the BoE to stand pat on policy this week, and we expect the minutes to reveal a unanimous vote to maintain the repo rate at 0.5% (median same). This would make it exactly seven years the repo has been at its historic low. Weakness in the February PMI surveys and the benign inflation backdrop should ensure a dovish-tilted tone in the minutes, though still keeping the door open to an eventual rate hike, which markets are now discounting to be in Q1 next year. It will be interesting to see if there is any mention of “Brexit” risks, which kicked into gear following the PM Cameron’s renegotiated membership terms and consequence setting of a referendum data (June 23).September.
SNB Decision: The SNB will have eyed the ECB’s move carefully and especially the fact that the deposit rate cut was rather modest and so far the impact on the CHF proved temporary, could allow the Swiss central bank to hold off with another rate cut at its policy meeting on Thursday. Much will depend on developments in forex markets and even if rates are on hold this week, the SNB has shown before that it can always act at short notice and outside its quarterly policy meetings.

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