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Monthly Archives: March 2016

BEIGE BOOK: WINDOW ON MAIN STREET

The latest Beige Book suggests that the U.S. economy is still growing near its long term trend, but that the drag from a stronger dollar and weaker energy prices, along with the slowdown in emerging market (EM) economies — most notably China, are still having a major impact on the manufacturing sector. In addition, our analysis of the Beige Book confirms that there has been some spillover of weakness from the energy and manufacturing sectors to other parts of the economy in recent months. Comments in the Beige Book also continue to indicate that some upward pressure on wages is beginning to emerge; but the wage pressures are not accelerating, which should keep the Federal Reserve (Fed) from raising interest rates aggressively this year.

Overall, the Beige Book described the economy as expanding at a “modest or moderate” pace in 7 of the 12 districts, a downshift from the 9 of 12 citing “modest or moderate growth” in the January 2016 Beige Book. In general, optimism regarding the economic outlook far outweighed pessimism throughout the Beige Book, as it has for the past two years or so, but pessimism is running high in the energy producing regions of the U.S. The Beige Book is a qualitative assessment of the…

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TOO SOON FOR MARCH MADNESS?

As we enter March, market participants are already looking ahead to the Federal Reserve’s (Fed) next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. While the meeting isn’t until March 15 – 16, 2016, markets are already trying to decipher how the widening disconnect between what the Fed plans to do with the fed funds rate and what the market thinks the Fed will do will be resolved. Part of the problem is timing. The latest set of “dot plots” — where each of the 19 FOMC members think the fed funds rate will be at the end of 2016, 2017, 2018, and beyond — is nearly three months old, having been released at the conclusion of the December 15 – 16, 2015 meeting. The December 2015 dot plots show that the Fed plans to raise rates by 100 basis points (1%) this year (or four 25 basis point hikes). The market, as measured by the fed funds futures market, doesn’t think the Fed will raise rates again until late 2017. Yes, you read that correctly, late 2017, nearly two years from now.

Based on recent comments from Fed officials and the Fed’s relatively high tolerance for financial market volatility, our view is that the March 2016 update of the FOMC dot plots may show that the Fed plans to raise rates by at least 50 (and perhaps even 75) basis points this year. Although this adjustment would help to narrow the disconnect between the FOMC and the market somewhat, it is nowhere near closing the gap completely. So, why the disconnect? March madness, perhaps?

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