Last week in Review: The Calm Before Storm?
This past week interest rates were essentially unchanged from the previous week, and it was a relatively "quiet" week. Let's discuss what happened and look at the week ahead.
The Blackout Period
As we approach the next Federal Reserve meeting, there is a blackout period, where no Federal Reserve members hold any speeches or make comments on monetary policy. The speeches by Federal Reserve members can often move the financial markets and interest rates, often in a volatile fashion. So, the absence of Fed speakers this past week was a welcome break from the added volatility.
The blackout period will end Thursday, the day after the next Fed meeting. With a rate hike widely expected, there will be plenty to comment on once this quiet period ends.
Global Inflation Easing
Interest rates and financial markets are influenced by economic conditions around the globe. This past week several countries, including the UK, and the Eurozone reported a larger-than-expected decline in inflation. As inflation eases around the globe, it lowers expectations of further central bank rate hikes and lowers rates. The opposite is true, so seeing inflation recede, especially in Europe, was a welcome sign and it added to some of the relief in rates here at home.
To Hike or Not to Hike
This Wednesday at 2:00 pm ET, the Federal Reserve will release its monetary policy statement and interest rate decision. The markets are now fully pricing in a .25% rate hike to the Fed Funds Rate. Remember, the Fed rate hike affects short-term loans like credit cards, automobiles, and home equity lines of credit.
Despite some of the softening inflation news here at home, the markets are getting a sense that this rate hike next Wednesday will be the last. It is too early to tell if that is the case. Next Friday's release of the Core Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE), the Fed's favorite inflation gauge, may very well determine if this is the last rate hike. Should the reading come in lower than expected, the Fed may indeed take a break from hiking rates. Once again, the opposite is true.
Over the past couple of weeks, interest rates have improved, with the 10-year yield moving from 4.09% down to 3.75%. For rates to improve further, the 10-year needs to move beneath 3.70%, a layer of yield support. Yield support prevents interest rates from improving. What will determine if the 10-year can move beneath 3.7%? Next week's huge dose of news which will be the Fed meeting, GDP and the inflation reading.
Bottom line: As stated above, this week is a big one for interest rates, and the financial markets overall. The Fed, which has already hiked interest rates 500 basis points over the last 18 months, may finally come to an end. The Fed meeting typically generates multiple market responses. The first of which happens upon the release of the actual statement at 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday. The next takes place at the press conference where Fed Chair Powell will answer questions that can lead to some off-script or contradictory remarks, and the final reaction will be Thursday when markets get to sleep on what they all heard.
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