Tags: jobs | economy | federal reserve | interest rate

Weak Jobs Gain Gives Fed New Reason to Delay First Rate Increase

Friday, 03 April 2015 12:01 PM

Federal Reserve policy makers have another reason to delay an interest-rate increase after a weak March payrolls report corroborated a first-quarter slowdown in the U.S. economy.

The question is whether that’s reason enough.

Employers last month added the fewest jobs since December 2013, creating just 126,000 positions, the Labor Department said Friday. Revisions erased 69,000 jobs from previously reported tallies for January and February. The weaker data contrast with 12 straight months of 200,000-plus monthly gains.

The Fed is watching for the economy to reach or approach full employment and generate higher inflation before raising interest rates from near zero. Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her colleagues last month opened the door to an increase as soon as June while also suggesting in forecasts that September may be a more likely time to begin tightening.

“This single report will not necessarily result in the Fed changing tack on its view of policy tightening this year,” Millan Mulraine, a research strategist at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, wrote in a note after the report.

“What it will do is weaken the argument for a mid-year hike and it will place a greater premium on the next few employment reports as the Fed looks for evidence that the relapse in economic growth and labor market momentum is temporary.”

Mulraine maintained his projection for an increase in September, though he said the “balance of risks” is shifting to a later start.

Policy makers will get two more employment reports before their June 16-17 meeting, when they will also release new economic and interest-rate forecasts.

Fed Projections

Fed officials in March lowered their median estimate for the main rate at the end of 2015 to 0.625 percent, compared with 1.125 percent in December forecasts. The median estimate for the end of 2016 declined to 1.875 percent from 2.5 percent, according to the Federal Open Market Committee’s quarterly Summary of Economic Projections.

Because it’s difficult to tell how Fed officials will react to a single month of weak jobs data, this report makes it even harder to project the central bank’s next move, Jim Baird, partner and chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors in Southfield, Michigan, wrote in a note following the report.

“This data does more to muddy the waters of expectations than provide clarity around policy makers’ next steps,” he wrote.

The odds of a June liftoff implied by federal funds futures fell to 14 percent after the report from 18 percent Thursday. The implied probability of a September rate rise also slumped after the release, dropping to 35 percent from 39 percent.

Options on eurodollar futures as of 10:30 a.m. New York time imply traders see only a 47 percent chance the Fed will raise rates this year and just a 55 percent chance of an increase by March 2016.

Yellen’s Caution

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week interest rates will probably be raised in 2015 and made the case for a cautious approach to subsequent increases. Speaking in San Francisco, Yellen cited strong gains in the labor market as a sign that restraints on the economy are abating.

Friday’s payrolls report “will give the Fed less confidence that the economy is ready to endure the policy liftoff as early as June,” Bloomberg economist Carl Riccadonna and his colleagues wrote after the release. “It will bring into question the degree to which the economy will spring back in the current quarter.”

The worse-than-expected number fits into a string of soft first quarter data, said Robert Brusca, president of Fact & Opinion Economics in New York. It could cause Fed officials to back away from statements suggesting that a rate increase is coming soon.

“I don’t understand how, with the economy this weak, the Fed can even talk about raising interest rates,” Brusca said.

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Federal Reserve policy makers have another reason to delay an interest-rate increase after a weak March payrolls report corroborated a first-quarter slowdown in the U.S. economy.
jobs, economy, federal reserve, interest rate
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2015-01-03
Friday, 03 April 2015 12:01 PM
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