February 27, 4:00 pm EST
As we discussed yesterday, the minutes from the most recent Fed meeting (which was still under Yellen) gave us some clues about the tone of a Powell-led Fed. They acknowledged the lift they expected from fiscal policy, which we didn’t hear all of last year, despite the clear telegraphing of it from the Trump administration. Powell was Trump appointed. And it looks like the Fed messaging will now reflect that.
This is from his prepared remarks today:
“The economic outlook remains strong. The robust job market should continue to support growth in household incomes and consumer spending, solid economic growth among our trading partners should lead to further gains in U.S. exports, and upbeat business sentiment and strong sales growth will likely continue to boost business investment. Moreover, fiscal policy is becoming more stimulative. In this environment, we anticipate that inflation on a 12-month basis will move up this year and stabilize around the FOMC’s 2 percent objective over the medium term. Wages should increase at a faster pace as well.”
So he’s bullish on economic output, wage growth and therefore, inflation. That’s bullish for rates. And, for the moment, what’s bullish for rates is bearish for stocks.
Oddly, on the same day Powell had his first testimony to Congress, the two former Fed chairs (Bernanke and Yellen) thought it was acceptable to host a chat about monetary policy this afternoon at the Brookings Institute.
It looked a bit like a partisan counter-punch. The same two former Fed Chairs that were, not long ago, begging Congress for fiscal stimulus to take some of the burden off of monetary policy, continue to (now) criticize the move. In fact, in Powell’s statement, he called the lack of fiscal response from Congress in past years, a headwind: “some of the headwinds the U.S. economy faced in previous years have turned into tailwinds: In particular, fiscal policy has become more stimulative.”
The takeaway from our first look at Powell: He doesn’t sound like a guy that will risk choking off the benefits of fiscal stimulus with overly aggressive “normalization” of monetary policy. That’s good.
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