Feb 28, 2020 - Economy & Business

Market overwhelmingly expects rate cut next month

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Data: CME Group; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

In one week, futures traders have gone from seeing virtually no chance of a rate cut at the Fed's next policy meeting to a more than three-quarters likelihood.

Why it matters: Economists aren't sure a rate cut would be effective at offsetting the damage from the coronavirus outbreak, and would put the Fed in a weaker position to bolster the economy should the U.S. fall into a recession.

  • But under chair Jerome Powell, the Fed has not gone against the market once in two years of policy meetings.

Details: Markets see significant likelihood the Fed cuts rates three times this year, and sees one rate cut each by the European Central Bank and Bank of England this year.

  • This is despite the Fed barely holding U.S. interest rates at a positive real level (above the rate of inflation), the ECB holding rates at -0.5%, and the BoE with rates at all-time lows.

Be smart: "With Fed rate cut probabilities for the March meeting now at 70% either Powell, [vice chair Richard Clarida or N.Y. Fed president John Williams] need to address the shift in market expectations," RSM chief economist Joe Brusuelas tells Axios in an email.

  • "If this is left unattended the Fed runs the risk of a major market upset around its March 17-18 meeting."

Yes, but: “The problem with doing monetary stimulus is that it will have limited impact on the effects of the virus,” Jens Peter Sorensen, chief analyst at Danske Bank, tells Bloomberg.

  • “The COVID-19 virus is keeping people from work, the supply chain is disrupted and tourists are not going to Italy. Monetary policy can do very little.”

Go deeper: Federal Reserve leaves interest rates on hold

Go deeper

After its emergency rate cut, investors wonder what the Fed knows

Jerome Powell. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Investors and President Trump want the same thing after Tuesday's surprise 50 basis point cut by the Fed: more cuts.

The state of play: The announcement, two weeks to the day before the beginning of the central bank's scheduled March 17–18 policy meeting, has investors scratching their heads. "The Fed pulled the fire alarm without telling anybody why," Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at the Economic Outlook Group, tells Axios.

Fed cuts interest rates to near zero in emergency coronavirus intervention

Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve on Sunday cut its benchmark interest rate to almost zero and launched a $700 billion quantitative easing program in response to the expected economic downturn and stock market slump caused by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: This is the most drastic measure the Fed could take to try to shield the economy amid a global pandemic. The central bank hasn’t made moves this dramatic since the financial crisis.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

Goldman Sachs expects a full percentage point of rate cuts from the Fed

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Fed chair Jerome Powell's statement on Friday afternoon that the U.S. central bank was "closely monitoring developments" and would "act as appropriate to support the economy" has eliminated any doubt that the Fed will cut U.S. interest rates at its meeting on March 17–18.

What we're hearing: "A Fed cut in March appears nearly certain," analysts at Goldman Sachs said in a late Sunday note to clients.