Will the Fed hike interest rates in September or what?! The transcript of the FOMC policymakers’ huddle back in June suggests that the timing of their “liftoff” might be delayed to December or early next year. Take a look at these main points from the latest FOMC minutes to figure out what’s next for the dollar’s forex price action:
1. Fed officials expressed concerns about Greece
Ahh, the bee in every central bank’s bonnet these days: Greece’s escalating debt drama. In their June meeting, FOMC members concluded that “a failure of Greece and its official creditors to resolve their differences could result in disruptions in financial markets in the euro area, with possible spillover effects on the United States.”
Bear in mind that this meeting took place nearly a month ago when the markets were still feeling a bit hopeful that the Greek government and its creditors could strike a deal anytime soon. Fed officials haven’t even factored in the latest set of plot twists which include an IMF default, a nationwide referendum that rejected the bailout terms, capital controls in Greece, and a five-day ultimatum from the EU!
This suggests that their next meetings could take place under a gloomier mood, during which Greece would’ve probably exited the euro zone or wreaked more havoc in the financial markets. In that case, Fed officials would be less likely to consider implementing measures that could drain liquidity like, I dunno, an interest rate hike.
2. China’s stock market slump hasn’t been in the picture yet
Since we’re on the subject of financial market chaos, let me remind you that China’s equity slump was still unheard of during the Fed’s June meeting. In fact, Chinese stock indices had just reached all-time highs around that time, prompting the FOMC to say that stock prices in Japan and China have been exceptions from the ongoing global selloff. So much for that.
A few cautious committee members did note that there’s still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to China’s pace of growth, possibly due to the weak spots in its latest set of economic data. Little did they know that Chinese equities would start a riot of their own!
Depending on how this issue plays out and whether or not Chinese officials are able to prevent further market panic, FOMC policymakers could consider this as another reason to delay any tightening moves. After all, China is the world’s second largest economy, which means that a financial meltdown would have significant repercussions on the rest of the globe.
3. Some policymakers are worried about hiking too soon
Apart from the risks stemming from Greece’s debt troubles, the domestic economy might still be facing a few challenges as well. FOMC members cautioned against a premature decision to increase interest rates, as some policymakers warned that the conditions for tightening monetary policy had not yet been achieved.
In particular, several members still weren’t impressed by the U.S. labor market trends, even after the economy had just printed a stronger than expected May NFP report back then. Some added that the weaker-than-expected economic performance for the first quarter might weigh on production and hiring in the coming months. And that’s before they got their hands on the June jobs disappointment!
The minutes also noted that the “risks to the forecasts for real GDP growth and inflation were seen as tilted a little to the downside” and that “neither monetary policy nor fiscal policy was well positioned to help the economy withstand substantial adverse shocks” which is a fancy way of saying that the U.S. economy isn’t out of the woods yet.
4. FOMC members are willing to wait for more data
With that, policymakers were inclined to wait for more economic data before pressing the rate hike button. “Many participants emphasized that, in order to determine that the criteria for beginning policy normalization had been met, they would need additional information indicating that economic growth was strengthening, that labor market conditions were continuing to improve, and that inflation was moving back toward the Committee’s objective,” the FOMC minutes indicated. As always, FOMC members agreed to proceed on a meeting-by-meeting basis, making their decisions based on upcoming data and its implications for their economic outlook.
5. Wait for the “implementation note”
FOMC members also decided to give forex market watchers better clues on future policy adjustments in their next announcements. They decided to issue an “implementation note” or a separate statement that would contain more details on the specific measures to be implemented. This would cover “operational details regarding the settings of the policy tools and changes in administered rates being employed.” Now that’s something to look forward to in their next statement!
In a nutshell, it looks like forex junkies will have to start accepting the lower likelihood of a September rate hike from the Fed, as financial market risks from Greece have worsened and China has decided to get a piece of the selloff action as well. Then again, a lot can still happen over the next couple of months so it will be interesting to see if the U.S. economy can keep improving and if Fed officials have been able to iron out more policy tightening details by then.