It’s a busy day for trading news around the world with particular focus on the US (FOMC meeting and consumer prices), UK (employment report and national Budget) and crude oil (inventories and meeting rumours). Stock markets have been steady so far with US index futures up marginally while the FTSE and DAX are down less than 0.5%. Traders don't seem to be interested in getting too far out on a limb ahead of big news but this feels like the calm before a storm with the potential for significant moves later in the day.
Having held $35.00 support no WTI yesterday, crude oil appears to have completed a trading correction and has resumed its recovery trend. The rebound started when US API oil inventories rose less than expected. It has been helped along by reports in the press that the big meeting to discuss a production freeze is likely to happen in mid-April, could involve 15 countries and may proceed with or without Iran, who is still in the process of restoring its production to pre-sanctions levels. Oil could be active through the morning
The UK is also in focus this morning following a mixed employment report that saw jobless claims and weekly earnings come in better/higher than expected but 3 month job creation miss badly. GBP is falling again on the news, but today’s decline against USD of 0.3% is moderate and similar to other major currencies like JPY. UK markets could be active around today’s budget speech which could be particularly significant coming within the Brexit campaign. It will be interesting to see if Chancellor Osborne joins Governor Carney in trying to steer a neutral policy course, or if the budget speech tries to take sides.
As the day progresses, focus crosses the pond to North America where the main event is this afternoon’s FOMC interest rate decision, monetary policy statement and member projections due at 2:00 pm EDT with Chair Yellen’s press conference at 2:30.
The US central bank is generally not expected to raise rates this meeting but with inflation pressures growing and the US economy still strong, the Fed is likely to use the statement, forecasts and press conference to signal another hike is likely in the spring (April most likely).
There are currently three factions at the Fed setting up the potential for a big showdown today. The dovish camp is worried about recent volatility and thinks the Fed should slow down, the hawkish camp realizes volatility is normal when the Fed changes direction, expects the recent storm to blow over and thinks the Fed should keep to its original plan of 4 rate hikes this year. The neutral camp thinks the Fed should keep its options open and see how the markets and data play out.
Because of this, what happens to the Fed’s inflation forecast may be particularly significant as an increase would point toward an imminent rate hike with the Fed not wanting to fall behind the curve and have to scramble to catch up later. The forecast could be influenced by this morning’s consumer price report and rising oil prices, and the recent rise in core PCE inflation, the indicator the Fed uses.
With markets on the rise and US data mostly coming in better than expected since the last Fed meeting in late January, the dovish case has weakened but the fence sitters could convince the hawks to wait for one more meeting before pulling the trigger on another increase.
The infamous “dot plot” of member projections on the Fed funds rate at the end of this year may also be significant. After today, the Fed has six meetings left in 2016 with September and October likely out for a move due to the election campaign. A downshift in the party line from 4 hikes this year to 2 or 3 appears most likely, less than that would be seen as highly dovish. The number of planned rate hikes could send a significant signal to the markets about the Fed’s confidence in the US economy and the prospects for corporate earnings.
Heading into the meeting, USD is still pricing in multiple rate increases this year. Bonds have been pricing in no hike this month but the chances of an increase in April and June have been steadily rising over the last month. I think there’s a 20% chance of a hike today (low but it can’t be ruled out). A decision to hold rates steady could bring out at least 2 hawkish dissenters (Mester and George most likely).
For the hour following the news and through the press conference, we could see significant swings in both directions as traders digest the developments and sort out their implications.
Hawkish news or signals may boost USD and could send stocks initially lower then higher as a signal of tighter monetary policy driven by a stronger economy.
Neutral to dovish news or signals could undermine confidence in the US economy and stock market while also sending USD lower.
Oracle $0.64 vs street $0.62
Chipotle Mexican same store sales (26.1%), guides Q1 EPS ($1.00) way below street $0.02
Significant announcements released overnight include:
US API crude oil inventories 1.5 mmbbls vs street 2.5 mmbbls
US Primaries results
Trump and Clinton win in Florida, Illinois, North Carolina Kasich and Clinton win in Ohio Missouri very close but Trump and Clinton had slight leads Rubio drops out of Republican race Clinton and Trump increase their leads in delegate count
UK jobless claims change (18K) vs street (9K) UK 3M employment change 116K vs street 144K and previous 205K UK unemployment rate 5.1% as expected UK average weekly earnings 2.1% vs street 2.0%
UK Osborne budget speech to Parliament
Eurozone construction output 6.0% vs previous (0.4%)
Upcoming significant announcements include:
8:30 am EDT Canada manufacturing sales street 0.5% vs previous 1.2%
8:30 am EDT US consumer prices street 0.9% vs previous 1.4% 8:30 am EDT US core CPI street 2.2% 8:30 am EDT US real avg weekly earnings previous 1.2%
8:30 am EDT US housing starts street 1,150K 8:30 am EDT US building permits street 1,200K
9:15 am EDT US industrial production street (0.3%) vs previous 0.9% 9:15 am EDT US manufacturing production street 0.1% vs previous 0.5%
10:30 am EDT US DOE crude oil inventories street 3.2 mmbbls 10:30 am EDT US DOE gasoline inventories street (2.2 mmbbls)
2:00 pm EDT US FOMC interest rate 0.25%-0.50% no change expected 2:00 pm EDT US FOMC statement and member projections 2:30 pm EDT FOMC Yellen press conference