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Jerome Powell speech to set stage for next Fed decision

October 19, 2023| Forex Market


  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will speak before the Economic Club of New York.
  • Powell’s comments on monetary policy and interest rate path will be scrutinized by markets.
  • The US Dollar could show significant reaction to Powell’s speech before the Fed’s blackout period begins on Saturday.

Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve (Fed), will deliver prepared remarks before the Economic Club of New York and respond to questions. Powell’s speech is expected to offer important clues on the Fed’s next policy step and ramp up market volatility before the Fed’s blackout period, during which policymakers are barred from speaking on the economy or policy, starts on Saturday.

The Fed decided to leave the policy rate unchanged at the range of 5.25%-5.5% after the September policy meeting, as expected. The revised Summary of Economic Projections offered a hawkish surprise by showing that the majority of policymakers saw it appropriate to raise the interest rate one more time before the end of the year. Changes in market dynamics and macroeconomic data releases since the Fed’s September policy announcements, however, made it difficult for investors to make up their minds about the Fed’s next policy step.

Here is Fed Chairman Powell explaining the monetary policy decisions following the September meeting:

Growing concerns over a US debt rating downgrade amid a lack of progress in budget negotiations triggered a bond sell-off in late September and early October. In a two-week period, the benchmark 10-year US Treasury bond yield surged from 4.5% to nearly 4.9% to touch its highest level since 2007. Several Fed policymakers saw the increase in yields as a development that could allow the US central bank to keep the policy rate steady for the remainder of the year.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said that tighter market conditions were “akin to rate hikes in impact,” while San Francisco Fed President May Daly argued that tight bond yields could be “the equivalent of another rate hike.” On the same note, “financial markets are tightening and that will do some of the work for us,” noted Fed Governor Christopher Waller. These comments attracted dovish Fed bets and the CME Group FedWatch Tool’s probability of a no change in the policy rate this year rose above 70%.

On the other hand, recent macroeconomic data releases from the US highlighted the resilience of the economy and the stubbornness of inflation, causing investors to second guess themselves about the rate outlook.  

Inflation in the US, as measured by the change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), held steady at 3.7% on a yearly basis in September, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. However, the so-called “super core inflation,” which measures the change in the prices of core services excluding the home rent component, rose 0.6% on a monthly basis. Other data showed that Nonfarm Payrolls soared by an impressive 336,000 in September, reaffirming tight labor market conditions. Finally, consumer activity remained strong, with Retail Sales and Personal Spending growing at a healthy pace in September.

When is Powell speech and how could it affect the USD?

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver prepared remarks before the Economic Club of New York at 16:00 GMT. 

In case Powell notes that rising bond yields could allow the Fed to refrain from raising the policy rate again this year, the US Dollar (USD) could come under heavy selling pressure, with bond yields making a sharp downward correction. Such a dovish tone is likely to boost risk-sensitive equity markets.

On the other hand, Powell could deliver a hawkish message by reiterating the need to raise the interest rate one more time, citing the lack of progress in inflation and the strength of the US economy. In this scenario, the USD could continue to outperform its major rivals. 

The Fed’s chairman could also adopt a neutral tone by saying that they will have more data before the end of the year to decide whether further policy tightening will be necessary. Although the initial reaction in this case could ramp up the USD’s volatility, a decisive move in either direction could be hard to come by with investors opting to wait at least until the October jobs report data to take position. 

Economists at Société Générale share a brief preview of Powell’s speech:

“The debate whether higher rates are required appears to have been settled at least for the November meeting (pause) because of the bear steepening of the Treasury curve. Unless Fed chair Powell springs a surprise tomorrow and calls the meeting ‘live’. This may explain why the dollar is struggling to pursue its advance. Whether the greenback will hold its ground may depend on whether pricing for December FOMC surpasses 50%.”

Interest rates FAQs

Interest rates are charged by financial institutions on loans to borrowers and are paid as interest to savers and depositors. They are influenced by base lending rates, which are set by central banks in response to changes in the economy. Central banks normally have a mandate to ensure price stability, which in most cases means targeting a core inflation rate of around 2%.
If inflation falls below target the central bank may cut base lending rates, with a view to stimulating lending and boosting the economy. If inflation rises substantially above 2% it normally results in the central bank raising base lending rates in an attempt to lower inflation.

Higher interest rates generally help strengthen a country’s currency as they make it a more attractive place for global investors to park their money.

Higher interest rates overall weigh on the price of Gold because they increase the opportunity cost of holding Gold instead of investing in an interest-bearing asset or placing cash in the bank.
If interest rates are high that usually pushes up the price of the US Dollar (USD), and since Gold is priced in Dollars, this has the effect of lowering the price of Gold.

The Fed funds rate is the overnight rate at which US banks lend to each other. It is the oft-quoted headline rate set by the Federal Reserve at its FOMC meetings. It is set as a range, for example 4.75%-5.00%, though the upper limit (in that case 5.00%) is the quoted figure.
Market expectations for future Fed funds rate are tracked by the CME FedWatch tool, which shapes how many financial markets behave in anticipation of future Federal Reserve monetary policy decisions.

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