Fed Will Let The Economy Run Hot


December 5, 2016, 4:00pm EST

On Friday, we looked at five key charts that showed the technical breakout in stocks, interest rates, the dollar and crude oil.

All of these longer term charts argue for much higher levels to come. Remember, the big event remaining for the year is the December 14th Fed meeting. A rate hike won’t move the needle. It’s well expected at this stage.  But the projections on the path of interest rates that they will release, following the meeting, will be important.  As I said Friday, “as long as Yellen and company don’t panic, overestimate the inflation outlook and telegraph a more aggressive rate path next year, the year should end on a very positive note.”

On that note, today we had a number of Fed members out chattering about rates and where things are headed.  Did they start building expectations for a more aggressive rate path in 2017, because of the Trump effect?  Or, did they stick to the new strategy of promoting a view that underestimates the outlook for the economy and, therefore, the rate path (a strategy that was suggested by former Fed Chair Bernanke)?

The former is what Bernanke criticized the Fed as doing late last year, which he argued was an impediment to growth, as people took the cue and started positioning for a rate environment that would choke off the recovery.  The latter is what he suggested they should move to (and have moved to), sending an ultra accommodative signal, and a willingness to be behind the curve on inflation — letting the economy run hot for a while (i.e. they won’t impede the progress of recovery by tightening money).

So how did the Fed speakers today weigh in, relative to this positioning?

First, it should be said that Bernanke also recently criticized the Fed for the cacophony of chatter from Fed members between meetings. He said it was confusing and disruptive to the overall Fed communications.
So we had three speakers today.  New York Fed President William Dudley spoke in New York, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard spoke in Phoenix, and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans speaks in Chicago. Did they have a game plan today to promote a more consistent message, or was it a more of the disruptive noise we’ve heard in the past?

Fortunately, they were on message.  Only Dudley and Bullard are voting members.  Both had comments today that spanned from cautious to outright dovish.  Dudley, the Vice Chair, wasn’t taking a proactive view on the impact of fiscal stimulus — he promoted a wait and see view, while keeping the tone cautionary.  Bullard, a Fed member that is often swaying with the wind, said he envisioned ONE rate hike through 2019. That would mean, one in December, and done until 2019.  That’s an amazing statement, and one that completely (and purposely) ignores any influence of what may come from the new pro-growth policies.

This is all good news for stocks and the momentum in markets. The Fed seems to be disciplined in its strategy to stay out of the way of the positive momentum that has developed.  And that only helps their cause.  With that, if today’s chatter is a guide, we should see a very modest view in the economic projections that will come on December 14th. That should keep the stock market on track for a strong close into the end of the year.

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