On Wednesday, 17 August (GMT+3), the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released the minutes for its 26-27 July meeting. In it, the Fed has finally decided to take a step back to assess the effects of aggressive monetary tightening. For the past few rate hikes, which saw increases as high as 75 points, the Fed has always defended its decision by pointing out the robustness of the US jobs market. With the outsized Nonfarm Payrolls for July – 528K vs a forecasted 250K – the Fed continues to be proven right about the jobs market.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell has said during the minutes that “it likely will become appropriate to slow the pace of increases while we assess how our cumulative policy adjustments are affecting the economy and inflation.” Similarly, the minutes also showed that some Fed members have expressed concern about over-aggressive rate hikes, and that moves should be based more on data instead of forward guidance.
In other words, the Fed looks like it will consider slowing down the pace of tightening based on ongoing numbers until inflation slows to its desired 2% level.
While inflation measured by the CPI seems like it peaked in July, it is still 8.5% higher than a year ago. The fed’s preferred measure of inflation, the PCE, is up 6.8% year on year.
With the Fed’s fears of over-hiking (and tipping the US into a recession) being firmly established, the markets have been cautious about making big moves.
While major indices surged at the start of the announcement, most of them pared down subsequently and ended the day lower – with the S&P 500 down 0.72%. Volatility based on the VIX has also decreased, although it remains “significantly above pre-pandemic levels.
Meanwhile, the greenback has edged up 0.14%, with the Dollar Index currently at the 106.6 level. This comes on the back of the push factor of a weakening pound and euro; and the pull factor of dovish guidance from the Fed.
Gold meanwhile, fell to the $1760 level briefly after the minutes, but has since climbed back to the $1765 level.
In the money markets, traders are almost evenly split between betting on a 50-point and 75-point hike in the Fed’s September meeting.
Investors are advised to pay close attention to the upcoming US Initial Jobless Claims figures, which will be released on 18 August, 15:30 (GMT+3) – which will give further clues on the development of the US jobs market. As a friendly reminder, do keep an eye on market changes, control your positions, and manage your risk well.