Federal Reserve to Cut Rates in 2007, Corporate Bond Sales Show
Thinking about refinancing your mortgage in the U.S.? Wait a year. Considering a certificate of deposit? Sign up now. While economists debate whether the Federal Reserve will cut its target interest rate for overnight loans between banks from 5.25 percent, investors have already decided the central bank will reduce borrowing costs next year. Nowhere is that clearer than in the market for floating-rate notes, whose interest payments rise and fall with central bank policy. Sales of so-called floaters are slowing for the first time since the Fed started raising interest rates in June 2004. They’ve fallen to $21.5 billion in September from a monthly average of $35 billion this year through August, according to data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
U.S. 10-year Treasuries fell, halting a five-day rally, before a report today forecast to show consumer confidence gained this month.The gains ended on speculation yields at their lowest since March will deter some investors. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 4.56 percent as of 6:37 a.m. in New York, according to bond broker Cantor Fitzgerald LP. The price of the 4 7/8 security due August 2016 fell 5/32, or $1.56 per $1,000 face amount, to 102 15/32. Bond yields move inversely to prices.
For much of the past year and a half the Fed has been running almost on autopilot, with rates being raised from their historic low of 1 per cent in June last year to 4 per cent now in a lockstep of quarter-point moves. None of the economic vicissitudes over the past 18 months â€“ from Hurricane Katrina to surging energy prices â€“ has diverted the Fed from its gradual task of bringing rates to a more neutral level.
But this weekâ€™s minutes suggested in the clearest language yet that this task is almost done. In 2006 any further rate rises will have to be justified by surprising economic data, the Fedâ€™s internal discussion appeared to indicate.
For the first time since the rate-tightening began, some of the members of policy-making committee also warned about the dangers of going too far
“In contrast to the ECB’s caution, comments from the US Federal Reserve hinted at several more rate hikes to come.
Michael Moskow, president of the Chicago Fed, suggested that the Fed funds rate would rise above the “neutral” level expected by the market. “With inflation at the upper end of my comfort zone, an unexpected increase in inflation would be a serious concern.””
So come on lads, get your act together, which is it, almost done, or plenty of juice left in the lemon yet awhile?
Morgan Stanley’s Stephen Len is obviously on the same page as I am about how the rising interest rate differential between Europe and the US is likely to drive short term currency movements:
Policy rate differentials are especially important now for the currency markets, and it pays to focus on central banks these days.
Reason 1. Global monetary paths are diverging, not converging. Among the major economies, only the US has an output gap small enough to support tightening. I doubt either the ECB or BOE will be in a position to tighten rates this year. Many now understand quantitative easing must be terminated by early next year, but no one has proposed actually raising interest rates from zero. Therefore, monetary paths are diverging, with the rest of the world having trouble keeping up with the Fed. This makes the Fed much more important for the USD than in ‘normal’ times.
Reason 2. Global equity portfolios are likely to be out of balance. Since 2003, there have been massive equity flows into Euroland and Japan. Since much of these flows occurred when the USD was still in structural decline, and some of the outflows reflected fears of a USD crash, it makes sense to suspect hedge ratios are quite low on these equity outflows. With the rise in the FFR and resilient dollar, the cost of running these currency exposures is increasingly unjustifiable. The equity market cap-weighted short-term interest rate differential between the US and the major markets is now around 180 bp, and still rising. If the Fed takes the FFR to 5.0% by end-2006, the differential will reach levels last seen in 2000.
Brad Setser has a post today on Kate Moss, not provoked by her evidently economically intriguing modelling properties, but due to the Kate-Moss-thin credit-spreads which Bloomberg’s William Pesek refers to in this article. What really turns Pesek on it turns out isn’t Kate Moss at all but the possible existence of links between China’s economic boom and the recent surge in popularity for credit derivatives.
The reference here isn’t to the actual hurricane (which was far from that if you were black, poor, and lived in downtown New Orleans) but to the economic ‘near miss’ I think we are watching, and to the difficult decision Alan Greenspan and his team will now have to take on 20 September next.
Since the bursting of the technology bubble in 2000, there have been four distinct periods in which the Fed has flooded the system with an extraordinary amount of liquidity in an effort to boost the stock market:
1. Immediately after 9/11.
2. During the second half of 2002 in response to widespread accounting scandals and the meltdown in the corporate bond market.
3. During the summer and fall of last year, just before the presidential election (draw your own conclusions).
4. The past two months.
The euro reached its lowest level against the dollar in seven months last week dropping from a valueof $1.311 a month ago to $1.255 on Friday. This was the lowest level since last October. Undoubtedly there are a confluence of factors at work here: yesterday’s French growth numbers, longer term stagnant growth in Germany and Italy, Sunday’s elections in the Federal Republic, the up and coming referendum in France, rumourology about forthcoming ECB rate cuts etc.
This downward pressure will in reality be welcomed in many quarters, since it could give some useful relief to hard pressed exporters, and it may help those (eg Spain) with serious balance of payments problems by offering some kind of corrective impetus.
But all of this only draws attention to one underlying fundamental of the situation: there has never been a ‘strong euro story’, it has always been a ‘weak dollar’ one. And it is here that things get really complicated, since it begs the question of whether the US is able and ready to live once more with a ‘strong dollar’, and if it isn’t then this immediately poses the question as to what exactly the repercussions will be? Continue reading →
Ok, the sun is shining nicely down here in Barcelona right now, so maybe this is a good moment to come out and provoke a storm. The euro: something gives, but what? Actually it is perhaps ironic that I have chosen today of all days to write this, since for once it seems the euro may fall rather than rise: well to someone who is accustomed to marching out of step, this almost seems par for the course. Never mind, tomorrow, or the day after, we will be back to normal, and the seemingly unstoppable rise will continue. The only remaining question really is: where is breaking point, and what will happen when we get there? Continue reading →