The Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) statement showed it did not believe the first-quarter GDP data that came in full of inconsistencies, as I explained a few days ago.
In fact, the whole series of different U.S. GDP estimation numbers for Q1 make the Chinese GDP data starting to look reliable in comparison …
The Fed also made it clear that rate hikes are coming while it let us know it has the intention to accelerate the pace of its quantitative policy tightening by stating: “The Committee views the slowing in growth during the first quarter as likely to be transitory and continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace, labor market conditions will strengthen somewhat further, and inflation will stabilize around 2 percent over the medium term. Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced.”
By the way, it’s also of interest to investors to take notice that former Fed Chair Bern Bernanke said on Bloomberg TV he expects it could take 4 to 5 years for the Fed to unwind its balance sheet to some kind of ‘sustainable’ level.
Besides that, Bernanke also said the Trump administration’s plans to cut personal tax rates appear ill-timed and may do little to spur a higher rate of economic growth.
So, investors now have to sit back and prepare for a June rate increase.
Technically, the dollar rallied a little bit on the news, but it appeared to be more noise than anything else.
Never forget that rates are just one of the many factors that influence a currency’s value
There are plenty of other reasons, other than interest rates, that are not as supportive for the dollar.
Meanwhile, the productivity of American workers fell in the first quarter by the sharpest amount in a year, while labor costs increased, the Associated Press reported.
Productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.6 percent in the January-March quarter after rising at a 1.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was the biggest decline since a 0.7 percent rate of decline in the first quarter of last year.
Labor costs rose at a 3 percent rate, up from a 1.3 percent rate of increase in the fourth quarter.
Lack of investment in new equipment, but also lack of skilled labor, are negatives for productivity.
Normally, this data are relatively obscure, at least in today’s short-term world of the financial markets, but it does matter to the longer term economic outlook, and more especially in context of Trump’s policies aim to achieve annual economic growth of 4 percent.
Of more immediate concern could be the labor cost pressures that are, at least in part, behind the current increase in U.S. headline inflation.
Meanwhile in France where we have on Sunday the final round of the presidential elections, last night’s television debate between the 2 final candidates Marine Le Pen of the right-wing populist and nationalist National front and Emmanuel Macron of the centrist movement ‘En Marche!’, which is not a political party yet! (Don’t be surprised, history is written at this moment in France and therefore in the EU), was conducted, not perhaps, in the most presidential of terms.
If post-debate opinion polls are anything to go by and whereby Macron came out on top with 63 percent of viewer approval, while Le Pen trailed with 34 percent, investors do not need to change anything as regards probabilities, as it doesn’t seem the debate changed anything, which means that Emmanuel Macron should probably win the presidential election on Sunday in France.
Now, and this is important, investors should certainly not think that will be the end of the story.
Whether or not Macron’s presidency will be a success will depend on his ability to heal France’s social divisions, restore its economic dynamism, and tackle its high unemployment that stood in March at 10 percent and above all, the unemployment rate of young people stood in March at 23.70 percent
It’s really difficult to get optimistic about France or the euro area.
Etienne "Hans" Parisis is a bank economist who has advised global billionaires and governments on the financial markets and international investments.
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