Morning Note: Powell pulls rate cut rug from equities, Europe to open lower

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Morning Note

Is the US economy running hot or not? The economy is growing at +3%, but inflation isn’t there. PMIs are softening, but the labour market is as tight as it can be. The yield curve has started to steepen again – the big recession indicator has dimmed. 

For the Fed, the glass is half full, still. That means it sees no need to cut rates this year – markets have been pricing in a 65% chance of a cut before 2019 is out. Now they need to rethink this. As I’ve been saying for some time, the market was mis-pricing where the Fed sits on the economy and inflation and was overly dovish.

Jay Powell last night made it clear the Fed thinks that the low inflation is down to ‘transitory’ factors. This word was key, and has given risk assets a bit of a fright. The Fed’s preferred gauge of core inflation has slipped from around 2% to 1.6% in recent months, but policymakers remain relaxed. If weaker inflation persists, however, the Fed may need to consider a cut.

The S&P 500 beat a hasty retreat on Powell’s comments – slipping 0.75% on the day to close at 2,923.73. Bonds were sold and yields climbed. Powell is not listening to Donald Trump and his 1% cut + QE idiocy.  

Why the market is surprised by the commentary from Powell is not really clear. The minutes from the last meeting showed sill that the bias remains mildly towards tightening – I.e. the way policymakers read the economy progressing suggests still another hike before a cut. The market is still not pricing in the chances of a rate hike this year. 

The word ‘transitory’ has done the damage – once again Powell has found a way to make what should have been a fairly innocuous presser quite interesting.  

European markets are seen lower on the open – taking their cue from Wall Street and its risk-off moves. The FTSE 100 is seen opening around 7357, while the DAX – coming back from the May Day holiday – is seen at 12,347 on the open.

The dollar managed to pare losses as Powell’s comments were digested. EURUSD gave up the 1.12 handle and remains below this in early morning trade.  

Having rallied as high as 1.31 at one brief moment ahead of the Fed statement, GBPUSD has retreated to 1.3050. Lots of strong horizontal support now around 1.3030/40.”