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Are Interest Rates expected to increase in December?

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And, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said …

Art

By Arthur Chalekian GEPC
[Financial Consultant]

U.S. job growth surpassed expectations in October. About 271,000 jobs were created across diverse industries: professional and business services, health care, retail, construction, and others. That was a significantly higher number than predicted by economists who participated in a survey conducted by The Wall Street Journal. They expected to see 183,000 new jobs for October.

BLS revised

The BLS revised August and September jobs numbers higher overall and reported improvement on the wage front, too. Average hourly earnings increased by nine cents during October. For the year, hourly earnings are up 2.5 percent. Rising wages and a 5 percent unemployment rate “appear to indicate the labor market has reached full employment,” reported Barron’s.

Strong employment data supports the idea the Fed will begin to lift the Fed funds rate this year. On Friday, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke wrote in his blog:

“Wednesday was something of a trifecta for Fed watchers: Chair Yellen, Board Vice-Chair Stanley Fischer, and Federal Reserve Bank of New York president Bill Dudley (who is also the vice chair of the Federal Open Market Committee) all made public appearances. Moreover, the comments by all three members of the Fed’s leadership explicitly or implicitly supported the idea that a December rate increase by the FOMC is a distinct possibility. (The possibility of a rate increase is even more distinct with this morning’s strong job market report.)”

Markets responded swiftly, according to The Wall Street Journal, as investors repositioned their portfolios in anticipation of a rate hike. While stock market indices remained relatively steady, there was considerable volatility within certain sectors. An expert cited by the publication commented:

“…one of the big rotation trades on Friday was investors taking money out of companies such as utilities and real-estate-investment trusts, and putting it into those that are expected to benefit from higher rates, such as financial companies.”

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2 Responses

  1. Update on the Markets

    Attacks on Paris by the Islamic State were an appalling exclamation point at the end of a difficult week for stock markets.

    World stock markets tumbled as investors braced for a possible rate hike by the Federal Reserve in December. Many national indices across the United States, Europe, and Asia experienced downturns of more than 2 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.7 percent and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gave back 3.6 percent. The exception was Japan’s Nikkei 225, which gained 1.7 percent, largely because its weakening currency benefitted Japanese exporters.

    The chances are pretty good the Federal Reserve will lift rates during December. A Reuters’ poll of 80 economists asserted there is “a 70 percent median chance the U.S. central bank would raise its short-term lending rate at its final meeting of the year…” A survey taken by The Wall Street Journal found 92 percent of academic and business economists expect Fed liftoff in December.

    Even if the Fed does raise rates, it’s important to remember that market forces determine interest rate levels. Raising the Fed funds rate is the Fed’s way of encouraging higher interest rates and tighter monetary policy, but it may not have the intended affect. Crain’s Chicago Business reported, “The Fed is moving into uncharted territory. It has never tried to raise the federal funds rate – that is, make money harder to get – when the banking system was flush with $2.5 trillion of excess reserves, as it is now.”

    In the U.S., investors digested weaker-than-expected retail sales data. U.S. retail sales remained in positive territory in October (up 0.1 percent); however, economists were anticipating an increase of 0.3 percent. Regardless of the discrepancy, there are signs consumer spending will remain steady through the last quarter, according to Reuters. As a result, retail sales data are unlikely to affect decisions being made by the Federal Reserve.

    It’s likely markets will continue to rumble and roil next week as the world processes the horrific Islamic State strikes in Paris, in Lebanon, and against Russia.

    Arthur Chalekian GEPC
    [Financial Consultant]

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  2. The FED

    In GMO’s March 2016 white paper, James Montier and Philip Pilkington continued to explore the Federal Reserve’s influence on the stock market. It was a process they’d begun in 2015 as they sought “…to understand why our forecast for the S&P 500 had been too pessimistic over the last two decades or so.” Inspired by research done at the New York Federal Reserve, they found:

    “Sometime around 1985 the market really started to react to FOMC [Federal Open Market Committee] days. Like the Fed economists, we found that for the past 30 or so years these announcement days have had a major, and increasing, impact on the stock market…In fact, FOMC days account for 25 percent of the total real returns we have witnessed since 1984!”

    Upon further examination, they realized the Fed’s influence on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500) wasn’t caused by monetary policy decisions. Markets moved just because the committee was meeting. Investor sentiment was driving market action.

    Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen commented, “It’s appropriate, and I’ve said this in the past, I think for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time and probably in the coming months, such a move would be appropriate.” Her comments did not inspire ‘animal spirits,’ which is how economist John Maynard Keynes described the emotions that motivate people to act.

    At the end of the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 were higher on solid economic data that included an upward revision of first quarter’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate. GDP is the value of all goods and services produced in the United States during a given period.

    The next FOMC meeting is June 14-15.

    Arthur Chalekian GEPC
    [Financial Consultant]

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