Topic: Janet Yellen
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin. December trade figures were roughly in line with expectations. The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index fell in the mid-February estimate.
Stock market investors were encouraged by the prospect for tax cuts following comments by U.S. President Donald Trump. In contrast, the bond market, recognizing that the process for cutting taxes will be contentious and lengthy, is less fearful of a large boost to the federal budget deficit (hence, bond yields have backed down over the past month).
Clarksville, TN – The Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged, as expected, and tweaked the wording of the policy statement slightly. There were no solid clues as to the timing of the next increase in short-term interest rates, but officials noted the improvement in consumer and business sentiment and seemed a little more confident that inflation “will” increase to the 2% goal.
While January numbers are often suspect due to the magnitude of the seasonal adjustment, the economic data continued to paint a picture of the economy that is in good shape.
Clarksville, TN – The economic calendar was relatively thin. Small business optimism rose sharply in December. Growth in retail sales was concentrated in autos and gasoline – mixed and generally flat otherwise (with unusual softness in food) – but it was still a relatively good quarter overall.
Department store sales were weak, but that is a long-term trend (not necessarily a sign of consumer weakness). The PPI was largely in line with expectations, reflecting moderate pipeline inflationary pressures (consistent with further Fed rate hikes in the months ahead).
Clarksville, TN – As summer comes to a close, the markets – as represented by the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 – reached new highs during August, putting all three major indices in uncharted territory.
Steady economic growth, rising consumer spending and improving corporate earnings coming in better than expected were all key factors in helping drive the market.
Clarksville, TN – In her Jackson Hole speech, Fed Chair Janet Yellen was not expected to provide any significant clues about what will happen at the September 20-21 policy meeting.
Surprise! Yellen provided a strong hint that the central bank is a lot closer to raising short-term interest rates. Yellen said, “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.” Take that in context with other evidence.
Clarksville, TN – The FOMC minutes (from the July 26th-27th policy meeting) showed that officials were divided on the timing of the next rate hike. Some felt that the labor market had already tightened enough and that the Fed risked generating financial excesses by keeping rates so low for so long.
Others felt that there was plenty of time to wait for more information and that it would be harder to correct course if the Fed moved too rapidly. Among voting FOMC members, the hawkish view (those wanting to raise rates sooner rather than later) appeared to be a minority.
Clarksville, TN – The economic data remained consistent with moderate economic growth and low inflation. Retail sales figures for July disappointed, coming in below expectations (but partly offset by upward revisions to June).
Preliminary productivity figures for the second quarter were weak (averaging a 0.5% annual rate over the last five years). Jobless claims remained very low. The Producer Price Index fell more than expected and pipeline pressures remained mild or slightly deflationary.
Clarksville, TN – As expected, the Federal Open Market Committee left short-term interest rates unchanged. In its policy statement, the FOMC noted that “on balance, payrolls and other labor market indicators point to some increase in labor utilization in recent months.”
More importantly, “near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished.” Kansas City Fed President Esther George dissented in favor of raising the federal funds target range by 25 basis points (to 0.50% to 0.75%).
Clarksville, TN – The economic data calendar was thin and reports were of little consequence for the markets. As expected, the European Central Bank left short-term interest rates unchanged and did not alter its asset purchase plans.
ECB President Draghi indicated that policymakers were encouraged by the financial stability following the initial reaction to the Brexit vote. He also said that more information will become available over time and the ECB would act using all possible tools “if needed.”
Clarksville, TN – The economic data were generally on the strong side of expectations. Retail sales rose 0.6% in June (median forecast: +0.2%), but figures for April and May were revised down (still a strong quarter).
Industrial production rose 0.6%, but that largely reflected a rebound in auto output (which had fallen in May). Ex-autos, manufacturing output was flat (-0.2% y/y, consistent with a soft patch, not a recession).
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