Tags: federal reserve | greece | rates | economy

Greek Drama Isn't Likely to Influence Federal Reserve

Monday, 29 June 2015 01:43 PM

The fuse may be lit for a Greek exit from the euro zone but the fallout in the United States is expected to be modest and not enough to throw the Federal Reserve's likely September rate hike off course, said former Fed officials and outside analysts watching the latest turn in Greece's crisis.

Major U.S. stock indexes were lower on Monday by a little more than a percentage point. Yields on Treasury bonds fell and the dollar rose against the euro, indicating the typical push into U.S. securities in times of overseas stress — but not to such an extent it would waylay the Fed.

"They don't have to raise rates tomorrow morning," said Roberto Perli, a former Fed staffer and now head of global monetary policy research at consulting firm Cornerstone Macro. "We will see how the economy does, and if it does not look like this is going to be a big deal then it is squarely up to U.S. data."

Michael Cloherty, head of U.S. rates strategy at Royal Bank of Canada's RBC Capital Markets unit in New York, said events in Greece did not significantly change the outlook for the Fed.

"This isn't a 'watch Greece' situation...While we have chaos in Greece, there are no signs of dramatic contagion yet, and that's why it doesn't change the Fed's tone," he said.

The crisis in Greece has been such a long-running saga that the financial system has had time to buffer itself against the worst.

When the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro zone first arose in 2010, it conjured the possibility of another global meltdown - with banks throughout Europe and the world on the hook through their holdings of hundreds of billions of dollars in potentially worthless Greek bonds.

In the intervening years, much of that debt has been rolled into loans from the International Monetary Fund and other European nations, with much of the remainder already discounted heavily through a negotiated writedown with private creditors.

According to the latest figures from the Bank for International Settlements, U.S. banks have a modest $12 billion invested directly in Greece.

Direct trade relations between the countries are also small, and years of recession in Greece have already taken their toll on any U.S. exporters dependent on the country.

Perli and others said the Fed will closely watch changes in the value of the dollar, a running theme in Fed commentary for several months now.

The run-up in the dollar over the last year nicked U.S. exports to an extent that surprised the Fed, and any new surge in the currency could mean another hit to exports and to jobs.

The U.S. employment report for June will be issued Thursday, ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. As long as that and other upcoming reports show continued strong job creation, well above 200,000 per month, the Fed would likely proceed with an initial rate increase in September, analysts said on Monday.

The Fed declined to comment on developments in Greece.


The confusion in Greece could, however, make the mechanics of any Fed rate increase trickier, if flows of capital into U.S. markets begin to spike or if an actual Greek exit pushes the euro zone economy back into recession.

The Fed may not delay its rate hike plans because of that, but it could make the management of markets more difficult, and cause longer-term bond yields to behave in unexpected ways - falling because of the inflow of capital, for example, at the time the Fed is trying to push them up.

That just highlights the risks of one central bank diverging towards higher rates when the rest of the world is struggling, something the Fed will need to prepare for.

"Somebody up there has a kind of playbook of the two or three possibilities and the ramifications of them, so they can follow a decision tree," said former Richmond Fed president Alfred Broaddus. "They don't want to be caught off guard...They want to be ready for whatever flow effects to the U.S. economy might be."

© 2020 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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The fuse may be lit for a Greek exit from the euro zone but the fallout in the United States is expected to be modest and not enough to throw the Federal Reserve's likely September rate hike off course, said former Fed officials.
federal reserve, greece, rates, economy
Monday, 29 June 2015 01:43 PM
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