Investors hoping for more clarity on the path of U.S. interest rates were disappointed on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left the fed funds target unchanged at 0.5%-0.75%, and refrained from providing any further indications on the timing of the next hike.
The 500 word statement released didn’t include any surprises. The Fed continues to see expansion in economic activity, solid jobs gain, moderate household spending, and added to that consumer and business sentiment have improved. This suggests that monetary policy makers were not worried about the most recent GDP figures which showed that the U.S. economy grew at its slowest pace since 2011.
Projected fiscal policies, currently the wildest card, were not mentioned in the statement, but of course were a hot topic at the meeting. However, the Fed can’t act based on assumptions and requires more clarity on tax reforms and stimulus measures, so probably we should wait a little more until Trump shifts his focus from protectionist measures to boosting economic growth.
The lack of clarity didn’t help to close the gap between the Fed’s projected interest rates hikes in 2017 and markets’ expectations. According to CME’s Fedwatch, markets are still pricing in only two rate increases in 2017, while the Fed penciled three in December’s projections.
The dollar and U.S. bonds yields fell as a result, while the robust ADP jobs report and ISM manufacturing figures couldn’t do much to help the U.S. currency. However, if Friday’s non-farm payrolls report surprises by equivalent scale to yesterday’s ADP, I think this will cap the dollar’s losses on the short run.
Investors will shift their focus to the UK today as the Bank of England announces monetary policy, release its meeting minutes and quarterly inflation report in what’s called “Super Thursday”.
The BoE is not expected to make any changes on interest rates or asset purchases, but what’s going to be more interesting is how the central bank sees the economy 7-months after the Brexit vote.
It is widely anticipated that growth will be revised higher after a solid end to 2016, but inflation is likely to be the major risk. In November’s quarterly inflation report, the BoE expected inflation to rise 2.8% in 2017, and if the figure was revised to the upside the question that comes in mind is, will the BoE turn more hawkish than neutral? If this was the case than GBPUSD could shoot higher to break above December’s high at 1.2774. The same applies if one of the nine MPC members votes against holding rates at current record lows.
By Hussein Sayed, Chief Market Strategist at ForexTime