The Federal Open Market Committee minutes were expected to be tame. They were. Traders do not have any more clarity about the Fed’s intentions today than they did yesterday, or after the March 20 meeting.
The minutes said that “A majority of participants expected that the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook would likely warrant leaving the target range unchanged for the remainder of the year.” However, “Some participants indicated that if the economy evolved as they currently expected, with economic growth above its longer-run trend rate, they would likely judge it appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate modestly later this year.” In a nutshell, US rates are not going higher in 2019, unless they do.
The US dollar continues to be trapped within well-defined ranges but managed to grind higher since New York opened, thanks to surprisingly strong US economic data. If the Fed is truly data dependent, today’s reports will encourage a hawkish bias. US Producer Prices rose 0.6% in March, well above the 0.3% forecast and February’s 0.1% result. Some analysts suggest that the reversal in commodity prices from their late 2018 declines could lead to higher than expected inflation. Weekly Jobless claims were 196,000, a level last seen 49 years ago. New Zealand and Canadian dollars led the major currencies lower since New York opened today.
Wall Street opened with all the enthusiasm of a root canal appointment. Prices are hovering around flat despite US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin chirping that “we’ve pretty much agreed on an enforcement mechanism,” suggesting a China/US trade deal is becoming closer to reality. Recent warnings of slower growth from the ECB, Fed and IMF may be weighing on prices.