Initial claims for unemployment in regular state-run unemployment programs fell to 576,000 last week. Economists had projected 710,000 new claims for the week.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.6% in March from February, the Labor Department reported this morning. Year over year consumer prices are 2.6% higher than they were in March 2020. Economists had projected that the headline CPI would climb 0.5% in March from February and 2.5% year over year. Financial markets shrugged off the numbers.
This isn’t good news for the prospects for a sustained economic recovery in the United States from the pandemic recession of 2020. The 25 biggest U.S. banks reduced their total loan portfolios by 8% in 2021 through March from the same point in 2020, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest weekly survey.
We want to see the job gains before we remove any support for the economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at an event at the International Monetary Fund, on Thursday, April 8. Putting another marker in the ground on when the central bank might start to cut back on its schedule to purchase $120 billion a month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities–and then to raise its benchmark interest rate, Powell said the Fed wants to see a string of months like March when the economy added 916,000 jobs.
Initial claims for unemployment in regular state programs rose by 16,000 to 744,000 in the week ended April 3, the Labor Department reported today, April 8. This was the second straight weekly increase in new claims. For the prior week, the total new claims figure was revised upward to 728,000. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected that initial claims for the week would fall to 680,000.
Nothing to see here. Move along. In the minutes from its March 16-17 meeting, released today April 7, Federal Reserve officials told the financial markets “that it would likely be some time until substantial further progress toward the [Open Market] Committee’s maximum-employment and price-stability goals would be realized.” And, the minutes went on, “a number of participants highlighted the importance of the Committee clearly communicating its assessment of progress toward its longer-run goals well in advance of the time when it could be judged substantial enough to warrant a change in the pace of asset purchases.”
The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) Price Index fell 0.2% month to month in February from January. That was below economist expectations of a 0.5% month to month gain. On a year over year basis, the headline PCE Price Index climbed 1.6%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That was in line with economists’s projections.
This week’s big Treasury auctions start off smoothly–so what does it mean if yields are down and so are stocks?
This weeks long list of Treasury auctions started off today with a very good sale of $60 billion in two-year notes today. Today’s sale came with a yield of 0.152%–yep that’s where interest rates are right now–on the two year note. That matched the bid in the when-traded market. Total bids amounted to 2.54 times the amount of debt offered. It’s a good sign when bids exceed the amount on sale. In February the bid-to-cover ration was 2.44 times. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 7 basis points today to 1.62%.
Today do stocks believe Fed’s Powell on inflation or are we seeing signs of worry about economic growth amid reports of rising coronavirus infection rates?
This morning Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell gave reassuring inflation testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. Prices would rise this year as Americans are able to go out and spend post-pandemic, but while “We do expect that inflation will move up over the course of this year,” he said. “Our best view is that the effect on inflation will be neither particularly large nor persistent.” As you might expect on that view, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury dropped 5 basis points to 1.64% as of 2 p.m. New York time on Tuesday, March 23. On most days recently a drop in Treasury yields like that would have produced a significant rally in stocks. But not today.
The likelihood is that more nervousness in the financial markets about the Federal Reserve will lead to higher Treasury yields this week. The growing fear is that the Fed is asleep at the switch on inflation and that the central bank is going to be forced to play “inflation catch up” down the road. To a great degree the Fed has brought this problem on itself.
At today’s (March 17) meeting of its Open Market Committee the Federal Reserve held its target interest rate at 0% to 0.25% and continued its commitment to buying $120 billion a month in Treasuries and mortgage-backed assets, as expected. But the central bank’s dot-plot survey showed more slippage on projections of when the Fed will raise interest rates. The majority of the Fed officials polled continued to see no interest rate hikes through 2023. But a larger number than in December–7 out of 18, up from 5–now see the first rate increase coming some time before the end of 2022.
On Wednesday the Federal Reserve will update its projections for GDP growth, inflation, and the timing of any interest rate increase. In December, Fed officials, on the famous (or infamous) dot plot indicated that that central bank officials expected to hold benchmark interest rates in the current 0% to 0.25% range through the end of 2023. in the months since that projection from the Fed the market has been pricing in a different scenario, one that sees a tightening in interest rates from the Fed at the end of 2022. In other words roughly a year earlier than the Fed’s projected schedule last December.