The Fed Reserve Chairman named Jay
Is tasked, market fears, to allay
He did it in spades
Explaining that trade
And Brexit, could possibly weigh
On growth in the US this year
And so he implied cuts were near
A quarter seems sure
But half has allure
Since price rises never appear
Every market story today is the same story; the Fed is going to cut rates at the end of the month. In fact, the only mystery at this point is whether it will be the 25bps that is currently fully priced in by the futures market, or if the Fed will jump in with a 50bp cut. Every market around the world has felt the impact of this story and will continue to do so until the actual cut arrives.
The knock-on effects have been largely what would be expected from a lower rate environment. For example, equity prices have risen almost everywhere, closing at new record highs in the US yesterday and trading in the green throughout Asia overnight and Europe today. The dollar has fallen back, much to President Trump’s delight I’m sure, giving up some of its recent gains with declines of 0.5% vs. the euro, 0.6% vs. the pound and 0.7% vs. the yen. Emerging market currencies have also rallied a bit with, for example, BRL rising 1.3%, ZAR 1.8% and KRW up 0.8%. Even CNY has rallied slightly, +0.25%, although as we already know, its volatility is managed to a much lower level than other currencies.
Bond markets, on the other hand, have not demonstrated the same exuberance as stocks, commodities (gold +2.0%) or currencies today as they had clearly anticipated the news last week. If you recall, Bunds had traded to new record lows last week, touching -0.41% before reversing course, and are now “up” to a yield of -0.31%. And 10-year Treasuries, after trading to 1.935% a week ago, have since reversed course, picking up nearly 12bps at one point, although have given back a tick this morning. In fact, many traders have been looking at the market technicals and see room for bond yields to trade higher in the short-term, although the long-term trend remains for lower yields.
But those are simply the market oriented knock-on effects. There will be other effects as well. For example, it is now patently clear that a new central bank easing cycle is unfolding. We already knew the ECB was preparing to cut, and you can be sure they will both cut rates and indicate a restarting of QE at their next meeting on July 25. Meanwhile, by that date, Boris Johnson is likely to be the new UK PM which means that the BOE is going to need to prepare for a hard Brexit in a few months’ time. Part of that preparation is going to be lower interest rates and possibly the restarting of QE there as well. In fact, this morning, Governor Carney was on the tape discussing the issues that will impact the UK in the event of a hard Brexit, including slowing growth, lower confidence and weakness in markets. Japan? Well, they never stopped easing, but are likely to feel a renewed sense of urgency to push harder on that string, especially if USDJPY starts to fall more substantially. And finally, of the major economies, China will also certainly be looking to ease monetary policy further as growth there continues to lag desired levels and the trade situation continues to weigh on sentiment. The biggest problem the PBOC has is they have no sure-fire way to cut rates without quickly reinflating the leverage bubble they have been working to reduce for the past three years.
And of course, away from the major central banks, you can be sure that we are going to see easier monetary policy pretty much everywhere else in the world. This is especially true throughout the emerging markets, the countries that have suffered the most from the combination of higher US rates and a stronger dollar.
The irony of all this is that, as RBA Governor Lowe pointed out two weeks ago when they cut rates, if everybody cuts rates at the same time, one of the key transmission mechanisms, a weaker currency, is likely to have far less impact because the relative rate structure will remain the same. This is the reason that the dollar is likely to come under pressure in the short-run, because the Fed has more room to cut rates than most other central banks. But in the end, if everybody reaches ZIRP, currency valuations will need to be decided on other criteria with macroeconomic performance likely to be a key driver. And in the end, the dollar still comes up looking like the best bet.
And that’s really it. Every story is about the Fed cutting rates and how it will impact some other country, market, company, policy, etc.. Brexit is hanging out there, but until the new PM is named, nothing is going to change. The trade talks have restarted, but there is no conclusion in sight. Granted, several individual currencies have suffered of their own accord lately, notably MXN which fell more than 2.0% on Monday after the FinMin resigned due to philosophical differences with President AMLO, and TRY, which fell a similar amount at the end of last Friday after President Erdogan fired the central bank president and replaced him with someone more likely to cut rates. But those are special situations, and in truth, a good deal of those losses have been mitigated by the Fed story. As I said, it is all one story today.
Looking ahead to today’s market, we see our only important data point of the week, CPI (exp 1.6%, 2.0% core) and we also get Initial Claims (223K). But Chairman Powell testifies in front of the Senate today, and we hear from Williams, Bostic, Barkin, Kashkari and Quarles before the day is through as well. Given the Minutes released yesterday indicated a majority of FOMC members were ready to cut this month, it will be interesting to see how dovish this particular group sounds today, especially in the wake of the Chairman’s comments yesterday. Overall, I think the bias will be more dovish, and that the dollar probably has a bit further to fall before it is all over.