Thursday, August 20, 2015

FOMC minutes

If anything, the July’s FOMC minutes have reduced expectations for a September liftoff. Before the release the odds were +50% that the Fed would begin its rate nominalization policy in a few weeks, now Fed fund futures are trading close to +34%. If the Fed is to raise rates in September, economic data since the July 29 policy announcement needs to win over at least a majority of the voting members – “most” still feel that conditions have not been met. Data since the last policy announcement has been mixed, including disappointing reports on manufacturing and consumer sentiment, while July non-farm payroll (NFP) came in as expected. It has been rather quite, but tensions have been rising again in the Ukraine. Russia is feeling the pain of the collapse in oil and the RUB. They now see crude prices hitting $30-35 dollars a barrel and Putin needs a distraction. Africa is feeling the pain of China’s slowdown and yuan weakness. Chinese demand for hard commodities and energy that Africa produces will be tested (in 2015 it was worth approximately $250b to the continent). The ZAR is trading at a 14-year low (12.96) and the world is beginning to question China’s “real” growth potential, especially since the PBoC has been tinkering with its own currency valuation. Chinese authorities will also be slightly miffed that the yuan has been passed over by the IMF as a reserve unit for at least another year yesterday.
The combination of significant weakness in commodity prices and ongoing concerns about emerging markets has been weighing heavily on most equity markets and should not get any easier next month. With history tending to repeat itself, the month of September is historically the worst month of the year for equities. Investors will need to be alert and ready now that the market is focusing intently on the U.S August job report for rate guidance.