The Fed On Hold…For Now

Last Wednesday (June 17, 2015), Federal Reserve released high anticipated FOMC statement, FOMC Economic Projections, and of course the Federal Funds Rate (interest rate). Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) kept the interest rates on hold while they decreased their rate projections for 2016 and 2017.

The projections, or “dot plot”, which shows where FOMC members expect interest rates in the future, suggest that there will be one, or two quarter percentage (%) point interest rate increase by the end of the year. In March, the projections suggested more than two quarter percentage increases. That was before they knew that the first quarter of 2015 dragged on the economy…temporarily. 15 of 17 FOMC members believe that the first rate-hike will take place this year, same as March’s projections. Five officials foresee one increase in the rates this year by quarter percentage point, up from 1 official in March. Another five officials foresee 0.50% increase this year, down from seven officials in March. Two officials wants to keep rates unchanged this year. In March, officials did not know if the first quarter slump was temporary or not. They just believed negative economic news were due to “transitory effects” which includes West Port strike, low energy prices, bad weather, and  stronger dollar. Now that we been seeing more positive economic news, many officials believe first quarter slump was temporary.

Officials reduced their median estimate for the federal funds rate by the end of 2016 to 1.625% from 1.875% in March, and to 2.875% by the end of 2017, down from 3.125% in March.

FOMC Economic Projections
FOMC Economic Projections – June 2015 —– Source: Federal Reserve
FOMC Economic Projections - March 2015 ----- Source: Federal Reserve
FOMC Economic Projections – March 2015 —– Source: Federal Reserve

The Fed lowered their economic projections for 2015. They see economic output growth to 1.8% to 2.0%, from 2.3% to 2.7% in March. For 2016, it is seen growing by 2.4% to 2.7%, from 2.3% to 2.7% in March. For 2017, it is seen growing by 2.1% to 2.5%, from 2.0% to 2.4% in March. For 2016 and 2017, it’s essentially the same forecasts. They also changed their forecasts slightly for unemployment rate and inflation.

FOMC Economic Projections - June 2015 ----- Source: Federal Reserve
FOMC Economic Projections – June 2015 —– Source: Federal Reserve

In the statement, Fed policy makers reiterated that they must see “further improvement in the labor market” and be “reasonable confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term”. If the labor market continues to improve like they did in May, and inflation continues to improve, I strongly believe we will see rate-hike in July or September. It’s likely to be September because there will be no press conference in July. If the federal funds rate is increased in July, there will so much uncertainty and volatility in the markets because the Fed will not have a chance to explain their actions. However, there still might be rate-hike in July because the Fed wouldn’t want to increase rates too late.

During the press conference, Yellen said “…we have seen some progress. Even so, the Committee judged that economic conditions do not yet warrant an increase in the federal funds rate. While the Committee views the disappointing economic performance in the first quarter as largely transitory, my colleagues and I would like to see more decisive evidence that a moderate pace of economic growth will be sustained, so that conditions in the labor market will continue to improve and inflation will move back to 2 percent.” It shows that the Fed is not confident enough to raise the rates yet. She said that the policy will be “data dependent”. I believe future US economic reports will be positive until December when we might get unfavorable weather again. Bad weather always derails the Fed’s view on the policy because it affects majority of country.

Regarding the US Dollar, or Greenback, Yellen said that the dollar “appears to have largely stabilized” and its significant appreciation is going to continue to drag on the economy for some time to come. The dollar has risen more than 15% against major currencies over the last 12 months.

US markets rose after the Fed announcements while the greenback (US Dollar) slipped. US markets continued to rise the next day.

Standard & Poor 500 ( "SPX" on ThinkorSwim platform) - Hourly
Standard & Poor 500 ( “SPX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly
US Dollar ( "/DX" on ThinkorSwim platform) - Hourly
US Dollar ( “/DX” on ThinkorSwim platform) – Hourly


SURPRISE!!! RBNZ cuts rates by 0.25%

Last Wednesday (June 10, 2015), Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) cut the Official Cash Rate (OCR) by 0.25% (25 basis points) to 3.25% for the first time since March 2011. According to RBNZ, further easing may be needed if future economic data are weak (“We expect further easing may be appropriate. This will depend on the emerging data.”). They believe Kiwi (NZD) is overvalued and “…further significant downward adjustment is justified.”. I can tell that they badly want Kiwi to decline.

In 2014, RBNZ raised rates four times from 2.50% to 3.50% (March, April, June, July), before pausing further hikes due to price depreciation in oil and dairy.

RBNZ lowered interest rates to boost inflation as growth in New Zealand slows. They are responding to slowing growth as dairy prices fall and inflation is not showing any signs that it will increase. The inflation is near zero and the central bank wants it at 2%, same as other major countries. Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation currently stands at 0.1%. Fonterra Cooperative Group ltd., the world’s biggest dairy exporter, is a New Zealand company and is responsible for about 30% of the world’s dairy exports. The average prices of dairy has been declining, reflecting on lower inflation. Lower cash rate should help support dairy farmers which will lead to more spending.

The central bank also changed its growth forecast. They see inflation reaching their target–2%–by 4th quarter of 2016, from previous forecast at 3rd quarter of 2017. Why do they think that they will reach their inflation target by the end of 2016? They believe lower rates combined with currency decline (NZD, or Kiwi) will speed up inflation. However, they cut Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecast for next year from 3.8% to 3.3%.

Screenshot (18)
RBNZ’s GDP growth and CPI forecasts
Screenshot (20)
Real GDP growth projections – Annual

Housing prices in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, have increased significantly. Lower borrowing costs (lower rates) might cause housing bubble which can have devastating effect across the country. Graeme Wheeler, governor of RBNZ, said a lack of housing supply is the main cause of surging market prices.

Immediately after the release, NZD (Kiwi) came crushing down. Kiwi against the US Dollar (NZD/USD) fell almost 200 pips to 0.7017, lowest since September 2010. After the immediate drop, I closed my short on NZD/USD, taking almost 800 pips profit. The reason for the close? The pair did not close below the support level around 0.7025. During this kind of news, the pair should have easily closed below the support level. Unfortunately, it did not. Therefore, I closed my position. As of right now, it’s below the support level and I would go short again once it rebounds little bit (and technical analysis of course).

Another news that might support NZD/USD to go lower are positive US economic news and upcoming rate-hike, unless future US economic reports are negative and the tone of the Fed changes to raising the rate later on.

NZD/USD - Hourly
NZD/USD – Hourly


Feel free to leave your comments below and/or contact me on this website, twitter, and/or LinkedIn. Thank you.

Jobs Report Surprises To The Upside – IMF Wrong? (You Decide)

Last Friday (May 5, 2015), Bureau of Labor Statistics released non-farm payrolls (jobs report) for May and it was way beyond expectations. 280,000 jobs were added in May (largest since December) vs. expectations around 225,000. It’s a strong sign that the US economy is recovering from the contraction that occurred in first quarter of 2015 (January-March).

Total Non-Farm Payrolls - Monthly Net Change (June 7, 2015)
Total Non-Farm Payrolls – Monthly Net Change – 2014-Present


The unemployment rate ticked higher by 0.1% to 5.5% from 5.4%, as more people are entering labor force (because their confidence in the jobs market are increasing). In May, 397,000 people entered labor force, mostly recent college graduates.

Average hourly earnings increased 0.3% on month-to-month basis from 0.1% in April. Over the year, it increased 2.3%, largest rise since August 2013. It’s indication that future consumer spending will increase. When consumers spend more money, companies generate more money and eventually hire more people. Basically, it’s a short-term demand in the economy.

March and April numbers were revised. March was revised from 85,000 to 119,000 (+34,000) and April revised from 223,000 to 221,000 (-2,000).

There were big increases in employment in professional and business services (+63,000), leisure and hospitality (+57,000), and healthcare (+47,000). Meanwhile, employment in mining fell for the fifth month in a row (-17,000) as low energy prices continues to hurt energy companies.

This is the most important US economic report because it shows how first quarter, which contracted 0.7%, are due to transitory factors and guides the Federal Reserve on the path of raising the interest rates. As a result of strong jobs report, June rate-hike door is not closed. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will be meeting on Tuesday, June 16, and Wednesday, June 17. At 2 PM EST, economic projections, statement and federal funds rate will be released followed by 2:30 PM EST press conference. The markets will be extremely violent during the time because it’s highly watched by investors and traders.

After the release of the report, US Dollar (USD) rose. USD against JPY (Yen) soared to a new 13-year high. US markets were mixed as investors/traders differently interpret what the jobs reports means for the future.


S&P 500 Index (SPX) - Hourly
S&P 500 Index (SPX) – Hourly
USD/JPY - Hourly
USD/JPY – Hourly


The day before the jobs report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed its forecasts for US economic growth and called for the Fed to hold off its first rate increase until the first half of 2016. The IMF said a series of negative shocks, including unfavorable weather, a sharp contraction in oil sector investment, the West Coast port strike, and the effects of the stronger dollar, hindered the first quarter of 2015. Thus, it promoted a downgrade to its growth expectations to 2.5% for this year, from 3.1% in April.

Economic Forecasts Souce:
Economic Forecasts

IMF says that FOMC should remain data dependent and act after signs of a pickup in wages and inflation. Well, the jobs report for May was positive, including wages. So is IMF wrong? Did they talk too early? You decide.

In IMF’s view, “raising rates too soon could trigger a greater-than-expected tightening of financial conditions or a bout of financial instability, causing the economy to stall. This would likely force the Fed to reverse direction, moving rates back down toward zero with potential costs to credibility.” —- “raising rates too late could cause an acceleration of inflation above the Fed’s 2 percent medium-term objective with monetary policy left having to play catch-up. This could require a more rapid path upward for policy rates with unforeseen consequences, including for financial stability.”

So when is the right time to raise rates? I believe it’s in July or September (no meeting in August) only if we continue to see pickup in wages, employment, and Consumer Price Index (CPI). Even through the chance of rate hike in June is very low, I would not be surprised if Fed decides to hike rates. Even if they do, it will be surprising to most people at Wall Street and markets will definitely be violent – I would consider it “mini-SNB” (SNB – Swiss National Bank), because of SNB’s action in January (unscheduled release – removing the cap on euro-franc).

Feel free to contact me by going to “Contact Me” above or leave your comments below. Twitter: @Khojinur30. Thank you.