Wall Street just said it: “July.”
Next week, the Federal Reserve will announce its latest monetary policy decision. The Fed is not expected to change course, keeping rates pegged at 0%, but there is growing speculation that the Fed will tweak its language and hint that rate hikes are coming later this year.
Perhaps sooner than the market thinks.
Right now, Wall Street’s consensus is coalescing around September, the next meeting after June that is scheduled to be accompanied by a press conference. But the July meeting, which is not scheduled to be followed by a meeting with the press, is gaining momentum as perhaps the moment the Fed could surprise the markets.
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Labour Statistics released its latest JOLTS report, which shows the amount of jobs available to be filled. The report showed that in April, job openings hit a record high, indicating that the labour market is still rolling and could perhaps be even stronger than the Fed and others think.
But the data on job openings show that these pressures could intensify further in the coming months, pressing the Fed into action sooner than markets think.
In a note to clients on Tuesday, analysts at Citi ask if the market isn’t in for a surprise when the Fed meets next week.
Could this chart JOLT the Fed into action?? We may be in the minority with this view but the 6 week gap between the June and July meetings this year could serve the same purpose as the 6 week gap between the May and June 1999 meetings (our favourite historical point of comparison for markets presently). Then the Fed provided guidance to the market that it was ready to shift policy in the May meeting and raised rates 6 weeks later at the June meeting.
Here’s the chart:
In a webcast on Tuesday, “Bond King” Jeff Gundlach of DoubleLine said he still thinks there is a “less than 50% chance” the Fed raises rates before December.
However, according to Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Sløk, the market is pricing in an 88% chance the Fed moves before the end of the year.
Back in April, the Fed tested a conference call system, perhaps indicating that it is prepared to raise rates at a meeting that didn’t previously have a press conference scheduled. Fed chair Janet Yellen has also emphasised that every Fed meeting is a “live” meeting.
The broader point here, though, is that while the economy appears to be slowly getting back on track, the labour market could force the Fed’s hand quicker than markets expect.
And it sounds like Wall Street is starting to whisper about what, right now, would be just about the most surprising Fed outcome: July.
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