There has been no shortage of sellside reactions to last week’s Fed rate hike, which have run the gamut from congratulatory as per BofA and Credit Suisse, to the outright critical, as we showed last week in a note from Goldman Sachs, RBC and SocGen, all of whom accused the Fed of either misleading the market, or soon being being forced to double down on its hawkish message as a result of the dramatic easing in financial conditions as a result of a rate hike.
A somewhat compromise take was provided by JPM’s quant Marko Kolanovic last week who shared the following reaction to the Fed hike:
Fed Put and Buying the Dip: Early this month, the Fed surprised the market by telegraphing a March hike. At the time, investors started speculating whether this was a sudden hawkish turn, or even a politically motivated decision. We think it might have been the move of a prudent monetary Dove. Hiking in March, gives the Fed the option to skip June should there be market turmoil (e.g. related to French elections). Indeed, the market-implied probability of a June hike dropped yesterday from 60% to 50%. After the dovish hike yesterday, extreme short positioning in bonds, and the selloff in rate sensitive assets (such as precious metals and REITs) snapped back. The short squeeze in these assets could have some momentum in the next several days. The dovish Fed outcome implies that the ‘Fed Put’ is likely still alive and well…
Which brings us to the latest, and most whimsical take yet, that of Deutsche Bank credit derivatives expert, Aleksandar Kocic, who usually tends to have some of the more unconvential views on monetary, or any other, policy. He did not disappoint on Monday, when in Deutsche Bank’s latest weekly note, he writes that there are basically two different possible endings to the current economic situation, or as he puts it, “the future is bimodal” with “volatility to be found between politics vs. policy.”
Here is a summary of his reaction to the Fed’s third rate hike in a decade
The subtext of the last week’s Fed “package” is a compromise motivated by a desire to extend the comfort zone and to hedge their position against possible fiscal irresponsibility, while, at the same time, not stand in the way to any possible fiscal stimulus (or its absence) by hiking too aggressively.… Depending on the interplay between degree of political resolve and the Fed actions we could see two distinct paths of resolution of the existing tensions in the mid- or long-run.
And his detailed take:f
Last week, the Fed delivered what appears as a dovish hike, in all likelihood to be followed with two hikes more in 2017 and three in 2018. Such a choice of the Fed action was a compromise driven by the developments in the labor market and the key events in Europe, on one side, combined with the risk associated with the approval of the fiscal stimulus, on the other. The subtext of this compromise can be interpreted as being motivated by the Fed’s desire to extend the comfort zone and to hedge their position against possible fiscal irresponsibility, while, at the same time, not stand in the way to any possible fiscal stimulus by hiking too aggressively.
Despite all the efforts not to create more uncertainty, this is likely to create at least mild ambiguity regarding the long-run. A Fed which is not in a standby position waiting for the fiscal package to arrive and kick in is going to be supportive for USD and higher real rates. The March FOMC “package” (in terms of rate hike, dots, rhetoric and Q&E) implies effectively a real rate rise and is most likely bearish for breakevens, which could diminish the effect of the border tax on the trade deficit and, as such, reduce the impact on growth potential. In addition, having higher real rates increases the costs of borrowing and possibly creates political resistance against deficit expansions and structural steepening of the curve. On top of that, given what we saw in the last weeks, this suggests that the political process around the budget plan and the Legislative package already expected by the market is going to be anything but smooth, which is adding further doubts about its success and timing.
Depending on the interplay of politics and policy — degree of political resolve and the Fed actions — we could see two distinct paths of resolution of the existing tensions in the mid- or long-run. On one hand, it appears that the Fed is removing uncertainty around the terminal rate, while on the other, politics is creating a binary outcomes which could have a dramatically different effect on long rates. In that context, we are facing a future with bifurcating back end of the curve. Either political bottlenecks clear and the stimulus gets approved and goes full force leading to higher growth potential with subsequent rise in price levels and structural steepening of the curve, or political tensions effectively sabotage either its arrival or content (or both), and the curve initially bear flattens or even twists with rate shorts capitulation accelerating the rally of the back end.
The above, simply summarized: the Fed has given Trump just enough rope to hang himself with; and since all that matters now is how effective the President will be in passing his political agenda – which is not looking good- should Trump fails, the one of two possible outcomes that is most likely is the one where the “curve bear flattens or inverts”, prompting the next, long overdue, recession.
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