Looking at the other side of the Atlantic, the Federal Reserve’s message has been more explicit: the central bank will not stop until it has a hold of inflation. The dot plot completed the Fed's hawkish statement and almost matched the market's interest rate hikes expectations. Interestingly, the dot plot shows interest rates rising above the Fed's terminal rate by 40bps in 2023 and 2024, indicating that the central bank expects inflation to run hot longer than anticipated.
The big problem with the Fed's decision is that there is a stark contrast between the central bank's tightening agenda and its economic outlook. Although growth has been revised down from 4% to 2.8% this year, the Fed expects it to remain above 2% for the next three years. Even more surprising is the unemployment rate forecast, which shows unemployment will remain stable during the next couple of years, increasing from 3.5% to 3.6% in 2024. Envisioning growth and unemployment to remain stable while the central bank tightens the economy is wishful thinking. Indeed, reducing consumers' demand implies weak growth or higher unemployment, and neither features in the forecasts.
In conclusion, in the UK, the BOE realistically looks at the impact that high price pressures and the war in Ukraine might have on the economy but fails to recognize the danger of high inflation becoming entrenched. In the US, the Fed remains blind to the economic impact of high inflation and an aggressive tightening agenda, yet is willing to get a hold of price pressures.
Nevertheless, the bond market rightly signals that we might be approaching dangerous territory. Since yesterday's Fed meeting, the US yield curve between 5-year and 10-year briefly inverted. We believe that as the markets try to digest the Fed's message, an inversion in this area will consolidate and might bring more inversion in other parts of the US yield curve. Historically, an inverted yield curve has signaled a possible recession in 12 to 18 months. However, there is the risk that a downturn will come much before that, or even before an inversion occurs.