The Federal Reserve will mull over monetary policy and the economy at its next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, which will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.
With market volatility elevated and global growth slowing, most economists see the Fed leaving easy monetary policy unchanged with interest rates near-zero.
Indeed, dovish commentary from Fed Governors Lael Brainard and Daniel Tarullo suggest we wait until 2016 to see anything happen in terms of tightening.
“The growth picture has been worse than expected since the September FOMC meeting,” Goldman Sachs’ David Mericle said on Friday. “The October meeting is unlikely to resolve questions about recent dovish comments from Governors Brainard and Tarullo. Although their comments have been widely interpreted as implying that a hike this year is unlikely, we instead see their remarks as reflecting reasonable and predictable disagreement, and we continue to expect liftoff in December, though only with 60% confidence.”
Thursday comes with the government’s first estimate of GDP growth in Q3. Again, Wall Street’s economists have been prepping their clients for a weak number.
Here’s your Monday Scouting Report:
- Revise down your US growth estimates. On Friday, Bank of America Merrill Lynch hacked its estimates for US GDP growth for Q3 through 2016. Led by chief economist Ethan Harris, the firm now forecasts Q3 GDP growth of 1.2% (down from 2.0%), 2015 GDP growth of 2.4% (down from 2.5%), and 2016 GDP growth of 2.5% (down from 2.7%). Here’s Harris: “The economy has faced some strong headwinds this year, including a sharp rise in the dollar, weaker-than-expected global growth and sharp cuts in oil sector investment. Further, the economy is in the middle of an inventory correction… Global shocks are having a big negative impact on the industrial sector (which includes resource extraction, utilities, and the production of manufactured goods). Although this sector only accounts for a shrinking, 16% share of GDP, the data have been weak enough to slow the overall economy.”
- New Home Sales (Mon): Economists estimate the pace of sales fell 0.5% in September to 550,000 units. Here’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “We expect new home sales to increase to 570,000 in September. This would follow two months of solid gains and would be consistent with the positive message from the NAHB homebuilder survey. Mortgage purchase applications have increased at a solid rate at the end of the month, likely reflecting a rush in loan applications before the new disclosure rule went into effect on October 3. The new rules will mean that mortgage lenders need to adjust their technology to process loans, creating delays in the process. As such, mortgage brokers may have advised clients to apply for a loan and sign a contract in September. If we do see a notable gain in new home sales in September, we would expect it to be partially reversed in October, however. ”
- Dallas Fed Manufacturing (Mon): Economists estimate this regional manufacturing index improved to -6.5 in October from -9.5 in September.
- Durable Goods Orders (Tues): Economists estimate orders fell 1.3% in September. Nondefense capital goods orders excluding aircraft is estimated to have climbed by 0.2%. Here’s Wells Fargo’s Sam Bullard: “Following a 2.3% decline in August, durable goods orders are likely to have retreated in September, largely on the anticipated weakness from aircraft orders. Boeing’s order data suggests that civilian aircraft orders will be weak, with only 29 orders in September versus 52 in August. Excluding transportation, we project a modest 0.2% rise in durable goods orders. The manufacturing sector remains challenged with an elevated U.S. dollar and sluggish global demand. This soft backdrop is expected to remain in the nearterm, thereby limiting contributions made by the manufacturing sector to overall growth.”
- S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index (Tues): Economists estimate home prices climbed by 0.1% month-over-month in August, or 5.1% year-over-year. Here’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “The CoreLogic data for August was exceptionally strong, but there tends to be notable downward revisions to the first release of CoreLogic. Home prices have continued to be supported by the combination of historically low interest rates and a healing underlying economy.”
- Markit US Services PMI (Tues): Economists estimate this services index improved to 55.2 in October from 55.1 in September.
- Consumer Confidence Index (Tues): Economists estimate the Conference Board’s sentiment index was unchanged at 103.0 in October. Here’s Barclays: “Equity markets have risen from last month’s levels, as jobless claims and retail gasoline prices have moved lower. These factors lead us to look for another move higher in The Conference Board’s index this month.”
- Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index (Tues): Economists estimate this regional manufacturing index improved to -3 in October from -5 in September.
- Advanced Goods Trade Balance (Wed): Economists estimate the trade deficit narrowed to $US64.3 billion in September from $US66.6 billion in August. Here’s UBS’s Sam Coffin: “The merchandise trade gap had widened sharply in August, with a drop in exports and a surge in imports probably led by iPhones. For September, we project that it reversed about half of that widening, mostly on slower imports.”
- Federal Open Market Committee Announcement (Wed): The two-day FOMC meeting will end at 2:00 p.m. ET. Here’s RBC’s Tom Porcelli: “The October FOMC meeting is unlikely to alter current thinking on the direction of monetary policy. Not only do we expect the statement to change very little, but there is also no scheduled press conference (making the probability of this being a non-event even higher). We continue to believe that if the Fed is going to hike in December (our official call), it will have to work much harder on selling the idea of a hike to the market. Thus far the market is only pricing in a roughly 1-in-3 chance of a hike, which is much too low given year-end liquidity concerns.”
- Initial Jobless Claims (Thurs): Economists estimate initial claims climbed to 264,000 from 259,000 a week ago. Here’s HSBC: “Last week’s initial jobless claims reading was 259,000. The 4-week average fell to 263,250, its lowest level in several decades. The slow pace of layoffs suggests that business remain relatively confident about the economic outlook. ”
- Q3 GDP (Thurs): Economists estimate Q3 GDP growth decelerated to 1.5% driven by a 3.3% jump in personal consumption. Here’s Deutsche Bank’s Joseph LaVorgna: “Regarding real GDP growth (+1.4% vs. +3.9%), we are projecting a sharp slowdown that is due mainly to inventory liquidation and weak net exports. Consumer spending is expected to remain robust, which should help sustain a 3%-plus rate of growth in private domestic demand. The GDP deflator (+1.7% vs. +2.1%) should also only show modest growth, implying that nominal output grew just 3.1% last quarter. This would lower the year-over-year rate from 3.7% to 3.0%. With so little top-down demand, it is not surprising that inflation pressures are modest. ”
- Pending Home Sales (Thurs): Economists estimate pending sales climbed 1.0% in September. Here’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch: “Pending home sales are likely to increase 2% in September, reversing some of the weakness of the prior three months. We believe the trend in home sales remains strong. Moreover, similar to new home sales, there could be a pickup in signed contracts as buyers lock up financing before the new disclosure rules went into effect. The new rules will mean that mortgage lenders need to adjust their technology to process loans, creating delays in the process.”
- Employment Cost Index (Fri): Economists estimate the ECI jumped 0.6% in Q3. Here’s Credit Suisse: “The Employment Cost Index often is considered the best overall measure of labour costs because it includes other forms of compensation besides hourly pay (such as commissions) as well as benefit costs (which account for a little more than 30% of the total). Also, the ECI is not distorted by shifts in the industry mix of employment, unlike average hourly earnings… ”
- Personal Income And Spending (Fri): Economists estimate income and spending each increased by 0.2% in September. Here’s BNP Paribas: “We expect subdued gains in personal income and spending and an acceleration in core PCE inflation for September. Disappointing control group retail sales and weak sales at gasoline stations likely offset an increase in unit auto sales and solid services spending. Declines in both aggregate hours worked and in average hourly earnings suggest that income gains were soft in the month.”
- Chicago Purchasing Manager (Fri): Economists estimate the Chicago PMI climbed to 49.4 in October from 48.7 in September. Here’s Nomura: “The Chicago PMI dropped into contraction territory in September. The details of the report were all around weak as five out of the seven sub- indexes declined on the month. Along with other business surveys, the Chicago PMI suggested that global economic and financial developments are taking a toll on business activity on a broad scale. Since these external factors are still lingering, we expect the headline index to remain in contraction territory at 49.0 in October.”
- U. of Michigan Sentiment (Fri): Economists estimate the index of sentiment improved to 92.5 in October from 92.1 in September. Here’s HSBC: “Consumer sentiment appears to have recovered somewhat following turmoil in financial markets during the summer. Over the past several weeks, the stock market has risen, and gasoline prices have declined. ”
After all the volatility we’ve experienced, including a 1000+ point drop in the Dow in a single day, the stock market is now in the green for the year.
“[This] is important because the S&P 500 came into 2015 riding a six-year winning streak, and it has NEVER been up for seven consecutive years,” NYSE floor governor Rich Barry said. “So, as you can see, we have got something to shoot for here… Speaking of October, with the S&P up 7.8% for the month, currently this stands as the sixth best October EVER for the index – with one week to go.”
In the past week, several experts, including Deutsche Bank’s Binky Chadha and FundStrat’s Tom Lee have noted that US equity funds have experienced almost no net inflows.
“[Since 2007], $US1.9 trillion went into other asset classes and now new money went into stocks,” Lee told Business Insider. “Does this sound like a market top?”
Meanwhile, active fund managers have been underperforming the market this year and last. To BMO Capital’s Brian Belski, that means fund managers could soon find themselves cranking up risk in their efforts to catch up.
“From our perspective, this poor track record has been a result of fund managers being too inactive and defensive with their portfolio positioning,” Belski said. “However, given the level of underperformance and outflows, fund managers will likely have an added incentive to position portfolios more aggressively between now and year-end to play “catch-up” — something we believe will be a strong positive for market performance.”
Regardless of what you think of these active managers, it is important to acknowledge that they represent a massive amount of money in the markets, and what they do can move markets.
From an asset allocation standpoint, however, Orcam Financial Group’s Cullen Roche notes that equity allocations are already high by historical standards.
“In past periods when equity allocations have been this high, the stock market has not performed well in the subsequent 10 years,” Roche told Business Insider. “At present, equity investors can reasonably expect mid-single digit returns in the coming 10 years.”