FOMC teases start of taper “soon”

FAN Editor
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington
FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo

September 22, 2021

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve on Wednesday cleared the way to reduce its monthly bond purchases “soon” and signaled interest rate increases may follow more quickly than expected, with nine of 18 U.S. central bank policymakers projecting borrowing costs will need to rise in 2022.

The actions, which were included in the Fed’s latest policy statement and separate economic projections, represent a hawkish tilt by a central bank that sees inflation running this year at 4.2%, more than double its target rate, and is positioning itself to act against it.

The current target interest rate was held steady in a range of 0% to 0.25%.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell will elaborate on the latest policy statement in a news conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT (1830 GMT).

MARKET REACTION:

STOCKS: The S&P 500 extended a rally and was last up 1.31%

BONDS: The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield was easier at 1.3023% and the 2-year yield eased to 0.2180%

FOREX: The dollar index slipped 0.2%

COMMENTS:

SAM STOVALL, CHIEF INVESTMENT STRATEGIST, CFRA Research, NEW YORK

    “It’s probably a little bit more hawkish than many would have anticipated basically acknowledging that should the economy continue to grow as we have seen it would warrant a tapering to occur. You could say it’s a tentative tapering announcement even though they did lower their 2021 GDP forecast.”

“The reason the Fed is tapering is because the economy and corporate earnings are strong enough to withstand it. So investors are basically saying let’s buy equities because the economy is strong and the Fed won’t be raising rates until a year plus from now.”

“The Fed is not going to get behind the curve and won’t have to end up surprising us by raising rates much more quickly than currently anticipated.”

JOHN CANAVAN, LEAD ANALYST, OXFORD ECONOMICS, NEW YORK

    “Basically what we’re seeing here is a (U.S. Treasury yield) curve flattening shift in response to the summary of economic projections pulling forward Fed rate hikes. The Fed is now projecting a rate hike in 2022 as their median forecast, which is up from steady in the July summary of economic projections. As a result, what we’re seeing is a little bit of pressure on the front end (of the curve), while the long end views the slightly more hawkish Fed as a positive sign for keeping inflation in check along with some potential risk of the Fed moving too quickly and acting to slow the economy in the coming years.”

    “We have seen a bit of an acceleration in the curve flattening based on the view that we’ve seen peak inflation and some of the risks related to the slowing economy in the third quarter.”

STEVEN VIOLIN, PORTFOLIO MANAGER, F.L.PUTNAM INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY, WELLESLEY, MASSACHUSETTS

“It is an interesting point in time here, the tapering of quantitative easing seems very likely now in November but this was something of a given and remains couched in a lot of qualifying criteria in the event that various risks emerge, whether it is the debt ceiling debate, COVID outlook, the China property market intervening. The increase in the Fed’s projections in future interest rates though seems to be more what has caught the market by surprise at the margin, it is still consistent with our view that the Fed is likely to continue allowing inflation to run hot and remain anchored in the same measured pace as prior cycles. It really only increases the inflation risk that we have been taking seriously as we see some of the supply chain and labor shortages clearly not resolving with the end of unemployment benefits. Longer-term there is a lot of powerful disinflationary forces but for the moment they are clearly being offset and the risk is that becomes entrenched in consumer expectations.”

“For the moment, the markets seem to be taking this in stride with a relatively positive reaction from the stock market and from longer-term bonds, as far as the inflation outlook goes, I’m not sure this is a positive development.”

“It is also the measured pace, some increase in the dots was expected by the market and priced in to some extent but there wasn’t any acceleration, in fact there is a deceleration, which indicates perhaps some members of the committee have revised lower their terminal rate, it is hard to know, but the current dots as they are showing fewer increases in the out years and this is the first look we have gotten in the 2024 projections. So that is a notable development that perhaps is what is driving the positive response in longer-term interest rates and the shifts in currency markets.”

TOM GARRETSON, SENIOR PORTFOLIO STRATEGIST, RBC WEALTH MANAGEMENT, MINNEAPOLIS

“Across the board it’s exactly what we were expecting, the Fed took another step towards a formal taper announcement, and that’s probably going to come at the next meeting or two.

“The key behind the potential rate hike was the upgrade to their inflation outlook. There are signs inflationary pressures are going to be transitory, but they are more persistent than expected. That’s the key driver as to why the balance has shifted to a potential rate hike in 2022 as opposed to 2023.

“We’re watching yield curves flatten. The Treasury market’s interpreting it as a hawkish surprise.

“It was very inline with expectations. Powell will use the press conference to reiterate to the idea that tapering is coming in the several months. It’s what I expected, not too hawkish and not too dovish.”

JOSEPH LAVORGNA, AMERICAS CHIEF ECONOMIST, NATIXIS, NEW YORK

“Unless we know who is who, which we don’t, I’m not sure the dot-plot accurately reflects the Fed’s thinking. I don’t think the Fed’s tightening is going to be anywhere near as hawkish as they anticipate. It’s going to be hard for them to execute on this plan as the economy slows next year.”

(Compiled by the U.S. Finance & Markets Breaking News team)

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