China is the only thing that seems to be in the way of the Federal Reserve a September rate hike.
Following Friday’s jobs report that saw the US economy add 215,000 jobs while the unemployment rate held steady at 5.3%, economists across Wall Street agree that the US labour market has seen the “some further improvement” necessary to warrant a rate hike.
But despite these signs, strategists and investors looking at China’s shaky economy and topsy-turvy stock market don’t think the Fed will be able to move rates.
In a note to clients on Friday, Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin wrote that, “Our recent client visits revealed that some investors believe the dramatic weakening in China economic growth is one reason that the Fed may not tighten in the near term, and perhaps delay the first hike until 2016.”
And in a note over the weekend, Deutsche Bank rates strategist Oleg Melentyev argued that the recent collapse in commodities makes clear that the “global macro growth environment is deteriorating.”
And as this chart from Deutsche Bank makes clear, manufacturing activity in emerging economies, many of which are concentrated in Asia and closely tied to China’s economic performance, has been deteriorating over the last several months.
And while Fed commentary in the last several months hasn’t made much more than a passing mention to global economic events like those in China or Greece, raising rates into a weakening global environment could, in Melentyev’s view, put the Fed on the brink of a policy error.
“The most recent payrolls came in right on the screws, adding further evidence in support of a rate hike in September or later in the fall,” Melentyev wrote in a note the clients.
“However, we wonder if the Fed now faces increasing risks of a policy error by tightening into a slowing global macro environment. Dependent on how this story evolves over the next few weeks, we see growing chances of the Fed having to step back and rethink the merits of tightening policy now.”
But again, many economists think the Fed raising rates is almost a done deal.
Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro wrote in a note on Sunday afternoon that given labour market’s current pace of payroll growth, “rates already would have been raised some time ago in previous cycles.”
Shepherdson concedes, however, that holding back the Fed this time around is inflation, namely wage inflation. And this story isn’t likely to change before the Fed’s September meeting.
But Shepherdson also notes that Fed chair Janet Yellen has made clear that wage increases aren’t a necessary conditions for rate hikes.
And so then it seems settled: the Fed is going to raise rates, probably in September.
Unless China gets in the way.
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