The FOMC: No change and no surprise

September 22, 2016

The FOMC: No change and no surprise the result was a bit of a tangled web of contradictions. The Fed said the case for a rate hike had strengthened, though policymakers for the “time being” decided to hold off and allow the economy “some room to run.” Yet there were three dissents (Mester, George and Rosengren) in favour of an immediate hike, indicating acrimony beneath the surface as on the other side three members see the possibility of no rate increase this year. The Fed’s own economic and policy projections were mostly downgraded, seemingly at odds with their hair-trigger outlook. Amidst the contradictions, the Fed has maintained that it is not politically motivated, which could ruffle more than a few feathers in the event of a hike as soon as November. In her press conference MRs Yellen maintained that all meetings were “live” and the move to keep interest rates on hold “does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy” but was due to a slow uptake of labour-market slack and inflation below the 2% target. CMEGroup’s federal funds futures now shows a 60% chance of a rate rise in December.

RBNZ: Also no change and suggested a decline in the NZD is needed, monetary policy to remain accommodative and “further easing will be required”. Weak global growth and low rates continues to put upward pressure on NZD and makes it difficult for the RBNZ to reach its 2% inflation target. Strong domestic growth supported by high levels of migration (which is also keeping earnings growth down) tourism and construction. House price inflation remains “excessive”.  Outlook for the key Dairy season remains “uncertain”. NZDUSD rose to 0.7370 before falling back to 0.7330.

FX Update: USDJPY extended into one-month low territory under 100.10 as markets digest yesterday’s Fed and BoJ policy decisions and guidance of yesterday. To recap, the BoJ overhauled its policy framework, introducing “QQE with yield curve control” and an “inflation-overshooting commitment,” but the main policy rate and the -0.1% rate on selected reserves, and other policy variables, were left unchanged — there was no actually increase in stimulus. As for the Fed, while saying the case for tightening had increased, leaving the door open to a hike by year-end, the pace of tightening envisaged in 2017 was reduced relative to guidance given in June. USDJPY has duly reacted with a downward shift. The August-16 low at 99.54 provides the next downside target, and below here is the post-Brexit vote low at 98.98. Japanese policymakers won’t be liking the appreciation of the yen, so we can expect more rhetorical warnings, but it will hard for them to justify actual interventions while yield differentials are moving in favour of further USDJPY declines. Outside the case of USDJPY, the dollar is broadly lower, showing about an average 0.3% decline versus the euro, sterling, Swiss franc and Canadian dollar currently. GBPUSD formed a tweezer bottom on last night’s daily candle.

European Outlook: Asian stocks rallied (Japan was closed for a holiday), following on from gains on Wall Street after the Fed left rates unchanged yesterday. The FOMC said the case for a hike “has strengthened”, but decided to stay put for the time being, FTSE 100 futures are also moving higher, but U.S. stock futures are already in the red again. Bund futures managed to recover losses in after hour trade and in the wake of the Fed decision and could see some early gains, after yesterday’s sell off, although stock moves and the realization that neither BoJ nor ECB are eager to delve further into negative interest rate territory, should keep a lid on gains. Gilts are likely to continue to outperform as the BoE keeps the door open to another cut. Oil prices are higher, with the front end WTI future currently trading at USD 45.77 per barrel. The European calendar starts to pick up with French national business confidence numbers, the U.K’s CBI industrial Trends survey and preliminary Eurozone consumer confidence numbers in the afternoon. The ECB releases its latest economic bulletin, although the articles have already been published in advance this week so there shouldn’t be big surprises.

Main Macro Events Today        

US Initial Jobless claims –  Initial claims data for the week of September 17 is out later and should show the headline holding at 260k (median 262k), steady from last week and just above 259k in the week of September 3. Claims look poised to average 260k in September from 262k in August and 260k in July. Expectations for  nonfarm payrolls to be up 170k in September with the unemployment rate steady from 4.9%.

Draghi and Carney speeches –  Both central bank heads are due to speak later today. First up is President Draghi at 13:00 GMT at the ESRB in Frankfurt and later Governor Carney (17:00 GMT) in Berlin.

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