Data isn’t as objective as the Fed might have you believe

April 28, 2015

SFFedTshirt.jpgFed officials say they will be “data-dependent” when it comes to making monetary policy. San Francisco Fed President John Williams feels so strongly about it, he’s even printed up a T-shirt to get that message across. But truth be told, data-dependency is not as objective as it sounds. Data doesn’t dictate policy; it’s the interpretation of data that’s key. What is rate-hike-worthy data to one policymaker is keep-the-pedal-to-the-metal data for another. Take, for instance, U.S. GDP growth. Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker says he expects GDP growth to average 2 percent to 2.5 percent this year, a pace that would justify a Fed rate hike in June. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans expects 3 percent growth this year, and does not believe even that would justify a rate hike until the first half of 2016. So what does it tell you about monetary policy if you see GDP growth of 2.5 percent? Not a whole lot, judging from these two. And the statements of other Fed officials are hardly more helpful. Indeed, as Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said recently, “I don’t think it is advisable to approach such a decision with rigid quantitative triggers in mind.” Watch the data, sure. But don’t assume the data will tell you much about the exact timing of the rate hike. Monetary policy – it’s subjective. Maybe some policymaker will print that on a T-shirt.

Déjà vu? Fed may struggle to hike if U.S. optimism fades for H2

April 28, 2015

RTR4VVNE.jpgThe U.S. Federal Reserve may find it even more tough to raise interest rates as the year wears on if dwindling expectations for growth are any guide.

Emerging market stocks look more resilient to a Fed rate hike

April 9, 2015

Members of the Legio X Fretensis (Malta) re-enactment group take part in a display of ancient Roman army life at Fort Rinella in Kalkara, outside Valletta

Expectations may have been pushed to later this year for when the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike interest rates, but a repeat of another steep sell-off in emerging market stocks appears unlikely as much has already been priced in – and because of the stronger dollar.

Currency concerns everywhere

By Mike Peacock
March 24, 2015

A bureau de change operator counts U.S. currency notes in Abuja

Currency concerns in the central banking world have come to the fore again.

Sweden cut interest rates further into negative territory out of the blue last week, fearing its strong currency will engender deflation. The Swiss National Bank said it would aim to weaken what it sees as a “significantly overvalued” franc. And the Bank of England flagged the risk that sterling could strengthen further and leave inflation below target for longer.

Bibi rides again

By Mike Peacock
March 18, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to supporters at the party headquarters in Tel Aviv

Not for the first time, Benjamin Netanyahu has defied the odds and snatched electoral victory from the jaws of defeat.
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog has just conceded although he has not given up hope of forming a coalition government if Netanyahu fails to.

Decision day in Israel

By Mike Peacock
March 17, 2015

Combination picture of Isaac Herzog, co-leader of the centre-left Zionist Union party, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israelis are going to the polls with the last opinion polls suggesting momentum had shifted to opposition Zionist Union after weeks of running neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

Euro may not be on a one-way road to parity

March 17, 2015

RTR4SXKP.jpgSigns the euro zone economy may have turned a corner just as many begin to question the timing of a U.S. interest rate hike could soon put a floor under the euro after a 13 percent plunge so far this year.

The U.S. job market is consistently beating expectations

March 5, 2015

The evidence clearly shows that the U.S. job market now is consistently beating rising expectations, which should give pause to those doubting an interest rate rise is coming from the Federal Reserve later this year.

Prescient Yellen saw limits of zero Fed interest rates back in 2009

March 4, 2015

yellen.jpgDespite the Federal Reserve’s trillions of dollars in newly printed money, workers’ wages and overall U.S. inflation have failed to take off since the recession. Longer-term borrowing costs, from 10-year Treasury yields to 30-year home mortgages, have also compressed without any real signs of reversing. While this has perplexed many economists, transcripts of the U.S. central bank’s crisis-fighting meetings in 2009 show that Janet Yellen, then the head of the San Francisco Fed, was prescient in warning colleagues of these very problems.

The more things change: Fed wrestled with same policy “exit” issues in 2009

March 4, 2015

bernanke2009.jpgThe Federal Reserve faces two big challenges in the months and years ahead: how to finally “liftoff” after more than six years of rock bottom interest rates, and how to begin drawing down its $4.5-trillion balance sheet after three massive rounds of bond purchases. But, it turns out, those questions were being raised at the U.S. central bank as far back as 2009.