Topic: Federal Open Market Committee
Clarksville, TN – The FOMC minutes from the April 26th-27th policy meeting showed that “most [meeting] participants judged that if incoming data were consistent with economic growth picking up in the second quarter, labor market conditions continuing to strengthen, and inflation making progress toward the Committee’s 2 percent objective, then it likely would be appropriate for the Committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June.”
However, “participants expressed a range of views about the likelihood that incoming information would make it appropriate to adjust the stance of policy at the time of the next meeting.”
Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was quiet until the end of the week. April retail sales results surprised to upside, with upward revisions to February and March. This ran counter to generally weak monthly sales reports from a number of individual retailers.
March sales were likely distorted (and depressed) by the early Easter. Results reflected strong trends in nonstore retailers (which includes Internet retailers), restaurants (helped by low gasoline prices, but also reflecting a long-term trend of households taking more meals outside the home), and drug stores (which likely reflects runaway prices of pharmaceuticals).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were mixed, but generally consistent with moderately strong economic growth in the near term. Motor vehicle sales rebounded in April, from what appears to have been an Easter-related decline in March.
The ISM surveys split; manufacturing a bit softer, non-manufacturing a bit stronger. Nonfarm payrolls rose by 160,000 in the initial estimate for April, below the median forecast (+200,000), but not horrible (note that the economy added 1.057 million jobs before seasonal adjustment).
Clarksville, TN – As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged. In its policy statement, the FOMC noted that “labor market conditions have improved further even as growth in economic activity appears to have slowed.”
The key phrase from the mid-March statement, “global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks,” was removed, although officials promised to closely monitor conditions. Equities rallied on the Fed statement (in part, perhaps, because the meeting was simply out of the way), but global markets weakened after the Bank of Japan failed to stimulate further.
Clarksville, TN – The stock market’s anxieties about oil prices, the Fed, and the rest of the world gave way to a renewed sense of optimism (or at least less pessimism).
Heading into the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the key question was whether it would abandon the “considerable time” phrase. The FOMC had it both ways, removing the phrase, saying instead that it could “be patient” in deciding when to begin normalizing policy, but quickly adding that the intent is exactly the same.
Clarksville, TN – Next week, the ISM Manufacturing Index is expected to be the highlight, although the December figures can be exaggerated by the seasonal adjustment.
Market participants are likely to look ahead to the Employment Report.
Clarksville, TN – Taper, no tantrum. The Federal Open Market Committee decided to reduce the monthly pace of asset purchases from $85 billion to $75 billion in January. The FOMC added that it expects to further reduce the pace of asset purchases “in measured steps” depending on the economic data (that may mean every other Fed policy meeting in 2014).
It also emphasized that the federal funds target rate would remain in its current low range (0-0.25%) even after the unemployment rate falls below 6.5%.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data surprised. Real GDP rose at a stronger-than-expected 2.8% annual rate in the advance estimate for 3Q13, but the figure was boosted by faster growth in inventories (which added 0.8 percentage point to GDP growth).
Consumer spending rose at a 1.5% annual rate, while business fixed investment rose 1.6% – nothing to write home about. The partial government shutdown had a mixed impact on the October employment figures.
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 204,000 (median forecast: +125,000), while August and September figures were revised a net +60,000.
Clarksville, TN – As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee did not alter the pace of asset purchases (currently $85 billion per month). The FOMC noted that “the recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months,” but removed the phrase (from the September 18th statement that “the tightening of financial conditions observed in recent months, if sustained, could slow the pace of improvement in the economy and labor market.”
That suggests that the Fed could still begin to taper the pace of asset purchases at the December policy meeting if the economic data between now and then are strong enough (although that’s not seen as likely).
Clarksville, TN – The partial government shutdown and brinksmanship over the debt ceiling continued. However, financial market participants were encouraged by signs that the two sides were at least willing to talk to each other.
House Republicans appear to have abandoned demands for a repeal or delay of the Affordable Care Act, but it hasn’t been clear what they want instead. Note that a temporary (six-week or three-month) extension of the debt ceiling does not remove uncertainty completely, but it would sidestep a near-term financial catastrophe.
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