Topic: Federal Open Market Committee
Clarksville, TN – The Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, as expected.
In its policy statement, the FOMC noted that “the pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed while growth in economic activity appears to have picked up.” At the same time, “growth in household spending has strengthened” and “the drag from net exports appears to have lessened.”
The dots in the dot plot drifted a bit lower (that is, expectations of future rate increases become even more gradual).
Clarksville, TN – Fed Chair Janet Yellen said she was “cautiously optimistic” in her speech on the economy and monetary policy. She expects that further gradual increases in the federal funds target rate will be warranted, but she also stressed a number of near-term uncertainties.
This week, the mid-month economic data releases will be important, especially Tuesday’s retail sales figures, but the focus will be on the Fed.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data reports were mixed, but mostly on the soft side of expectations. The ISM Manufacturing Index surprised (modestly) to the upside, boosted by a lengthening in supplier delivery times (anecdotally, many firms had trimmed inventories in anticipation of softer demand, but sales surprised and they are now scrambling a bit to restock).
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index slid. Unit auto sales were strong, but were supported by an increase in fleet sales (rental cars, etc.). The ADP estimate of private-sector payrolls was moderate strong, with continued hiring at small and medium-sized firms.
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%.
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