Sep 18, 2019

The "data-dependent" Fed is fighting the data

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Data: CME Group; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

If Powell cuts U.S. overnight interest rates today, not only will he be fighting hawkish members of his rate-setting committee, but the supposedly data-dependent Fed will be fighting the data as well.

What's happening: Geopolitical tensions in the Middle East are rising and economic readings from China and the eurozone have continued to deteriorate since the Fed's last meeting — but U.S. data has been strong and even potentially inflationary.

  • The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rebounded in September after hitting a 3-year low in August.
  • U.S. retail sales rose 0.4% in August, doubling estimates from economists, after a strong 0.8% rise in July.
  • The core consumer price index, a measure of inflation excluding volatile food and energy items, rose 2.4% year over year, the biggest jump in more than a decade, according to St. Louis Fed data.
  • August's U.S. jobs report missed expectations for employment gains, but average hourly earnings increased by 0.4% for the month and 3.2% from a year earlier, both near their highest marks in a decade.

Now what? While most analysts and money managers say they still expect a rate cut, Fed fund futures prices show the market is growing less certain.

  • Traders went from seeing a 0% chance the Fed will hold rates steady at today's meeting a month ago to a near 50-50 shot on Tuesday.

Go deeper

There's nothing new about Fed disagreement

Reproduced from Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Dissent has been growing at the Fed this year and has only increased since Chairman Jerome Powell decided to cut U.S. overnight interest rates in July.

Why it matters: While there are signs the Fed's rate setting committee is a very divided body, the 6 dissenting votes against official FOMC decisions this year are hardly out of the ordinary.

Go deeperArrowSep 23, 2019

The Fed's September rate cut now looks even more controversial

Fed chairman Jerome Powell.

Minutes from the Fed's September policy meeting were released Wednesday, showing there was likely more opposition to its rate cut than just the 2 dissenting votes that were cast.

Details: The minutes showed debate had grown about when the Fed should stop cutting rates and "several members" wanted to keep rates on hold.

Go deeperArrowOct 10, 2019

The divided Fed is losing investors' faith

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Fed is doing its best to prop up the U.S. economy in the face of possible economic turbulence, but it's beginning to look like a rudderless ship and it's fast losing the confidence of investors.

Driving the news: The Fed's rate-setting committee cut U.S. interest rates 25 basis points as expected on Wednesday, but did so with 3 dissenting votes for the first time since 2016.

Go deeperArrowSep 19, 2019