The Fed Is Set to Cut Rates Earlier Than You Might Expect, and Here's Why!

Amidst a continued modest correction, the US dollar has traversed lower overnight, with the dollar index testing support at the bottom of the recent narrow trading range between 104.00 and 105.00. Yesterday's dip saw the index touch 103.80. Notably, the top performers among the G10 currencies have once again been the commodity-related currencies, namely the AUD and NZD.

Amidst a continued modest correction, the US dollar has traversed lower overnight, with the dollar index testing support at the bottom of the recent narrow trading range between 104.00 and 105.00. Yesterday's dip saw the index touch 103.80. Notably, the top performers among the G10 currencies have once again been the commodity-related currencies, namely the AUD and NZD. Their ascent is attributed to the positive impact of China's ongoing policy stimulus. The People's Bank of China (PBoC) took measures to stabilize the domestic equity market and boost housing sales by lowering the five-year loan prime rate.

DXY (US Dollar Index)

 Source: Finlogix Charts China's equity market, in response, has sustained its recent upward trend, briefly erasing all year-to-date losses in the Shanghai composite equity index. This shift in sentiment, marked by a reduction in pessimism among China-related investors, is tempering the US dollar's upward momentum. Despite the release of a stronger-than-expected US CPI report for January last week, the dollar has failed to extend its advance.

China A50

 Source: Finlogix ChartsToday's focus shifts back to the Federal Reserve's (Fed) policy outlook as the minutes from the January FOMC meeting have been released. The minutes reveal a mostly unified view among FOMC participants that they can afford to take their time before considering rate cuts. The January FOMC meeting had already signalled a reluctance to raise rates at the upcoming March meeting, especially after robust economic indicators such as the blowout nonfarm payrolls report and stronger CPI and PPI reports for January. Insights into preliminary discussions on slowing down the pace of quantitative tightening did also emerge, as of Chairman Powell's indication of "in-depth" talks on the balance sheet at the next March meeting. 

I’ve put together some important parts of the minutes, so you don’t have to! But if you wish you can read the full minutes on this link FOMC Minutes. 

Here's an interpretation:Financial Market Developments: The FOMC discussed financial market conditions, noting a modest easing but emphasizing that conditions remained relatively tight compared to the start of the hiking cycle. Nominal Treasury yields declined, especially at the shorter end of the yield curve, mainly due to lower expected policy rates. Equity prices reached new highs, primarily driven by large-cap technology companies. However, broader equity valuations were more restrained, signalling a cautious optimism about economic resilience.

Monetary Policy Expectations: Market participants interpreted recent inflation data and the December Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) as increasing the likelihood of earlier rate cuts. The modal path of the federal funds rate, as indicated by surveys, showed a slightly increased probability of earlier rate cuts. Options prices also suggested a decline in the expected path. There was heightened market attention on a potential slowdown in the balance sheet runoff, with expectations of a slowing pace starting by July.

Money Markets and Desk Operations: The effective federal funds rate remained stable, and the usage of the overnight reverse repurchase agreement (ON RRP) facility continued to fall. The staff highlighted abundant reserves, and once the ON RRP facility stabilizes, reserves are expected to decline at a pace comparable to the runoff of the Federal Reserve's securities portfolio.

Economic Situation: The economic review indicated solid growth in U.S. real GDP in the fourth quarter of 2023, though it had slowed from the previous quarter. Labor market conditions showed signs of easing, with a slower pace of employment gains. Consumer price inflation had declined but remained above 2 percent.

Labor Market and Inflation: Labor market conditions were tight, but signs of easing were evident, with slower job gains and changes in unemployment rates for different demographic groups. Consumer price inflation continued to slow, with both total and core PCE inflation below their year-earlier levels. Survey measures of short-term inflation expectations decreased, while medium- to longer-term expectations remained broadly in line with pre-pandemic levels.

Considering recent strong US economic data releases, the US rate market has adjusted expectations, pushing back the anticipated timing of the first Fed rate cut to June. While today's minutes might not drastically alter these expectations, the possibility of an earlier rate cut in May cannot be entirely ruled out.

A significant development in Europe is worth noting, with the European Central Bank (ECB) revealing a slowdown in the annual growth rate of negotiated wages to 4.5% in Q4, down from a record high of 4.7% in Q3. ECB President Lagarde has emphasized the importance of wage growth in influencing inflation dynamics but urged against hasty decisions on monetary policy easing. The euro-zone rate market reflects diminished confidence in an April rate cut, currently priced at around a 50:50 probability. The ECB's March inflation forecasts and additional information on Q1 wage growth will likely play a pivotal role in determining whether a rate cut occurs in April or is deferred to June. As of now, EUR/USD is stabilizing within the middle of last year's trading range, fluctuating between 1.0500 and 1.1000.

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