What if the Fed doesn't matter?
Markets were focused on one of their favourite pass-times last week; fed watching. The FOMC underlined that it considers recent softness in core inflation to be transitory, and also defied uncertainty over two hurricanes which battered the U.S. earlier. Mrs. Yellen informed markets that the run-off of the Fed’s balance sheet will begin in October and that the Fed believes the economy is strong enough to warrant a continuation of the so far slow, but steady, hiking cycle. The peanut gallery saw this as a moderately hawkish statement, but this was because markets had been pricing out a December rate hike going into Wednesday’s meeting. Fed funds futures and front-end rates have since corrected to reflect a near certainty that the Federales will raise rates one more time this year, likely in December. In effect, though, the Fed merely confirmed the path that it set out 12-to-18 months ago. Last week’s signal to markets from the Fed led punters to re-evaluate a vexing question; does the market lead the Fed or the other way around? The vibe I am getting from the veterans on FinTwitter is that the Fed laid down the gauntlet, signalling that it intends to push on. If that is true, trades are there for the taking.
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