Fri, Mar 24, 2023 @ 22:57 GMT
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Outcome of Fed March Meeting Becoming Fat-Tailed Towards a Possible 50 bps Rate Hike


US Treasuries went into full sell-off mode again yesterday following February US PMI’s. The composite PMI returned above the 50 boom/bust mark again for the first time since June 2022, surging from 46.8 to 50.2 (vs 47.5 consensus). The spike came on account of a similar move in the services gauge while the manufacturing PMI’s improvement was way more modest (47.8 from 46.9). Despite headwinds from higher interest rates and the cost of living squeeze, the business mood has brightened amid signs that headline inflation has peaked and recession risks have faded. At the same time, supply constraints have alleviated to the extent that delivery times for inputs into factories are improving at a rate not seen since 2009. However, the survey data underscore how the upward driving force on inflation has now shifted to wages amid the tight labor market. A potential wage-price spiral could accelerate service sector price growth, one of the specific items the Fed is following closely. PMI’s can be added to this month’s list of stellar payrolls, stubborn CPI, strong retail sales and hawkish Fed comments. All of which triggered a fierce, and ongoing, repositioning in US money markets. The outcome of the March meeting is becoming fat-tailed towards a possible 50 bps rate hike. Tonight’s FOMC Minutes will give an indication on how big last week’s dissent in favour of such move already in February was. Fed Bullard and Mester already revealed being part of this (outdated?) minority view. After US close, heavyweight NY Fed governor Williams (more moderate profile within FOMC) discusses the inflation outlook. Indications that inflation won’t come down as easily as hoped, won’t go unnoticed. US yields ended yesterday’s session 10 to 15 bps higher with the belly of the curve underperforming the wings. The US 2-yr yield came an inch away of setting a new cycle top (4.73% intraday high). The US 5-yr yield (4.15%) builds on last week’s break above 4.04% resistance which paves the way to the 2022 top around 4.5%. The US 10-yr yield is currently breaking above similar resistance (3.9%) which – if confirmed – opens the path to 4.33%. Yesterday’s bond sell-off spilled to stock markets in an echo to market correlation in the first 9 months of last year. US stock markets lost 2% to 2.5%. The dollar’s performance could have been better in this context (yield advantage & risk-off). EUR/USD closed only marginally weaker at 1.0648. Just as for the stock market, we think it is only a matter of time before the pair cracks as US money markets gradually embrace the 50 bps hike scenario in March. Support kicks in at 1.0484/66 (2023 low/38% retracement on September/February comeback). Sterling profited from rising UK yields (2-y +17 bps) after strong PMI’s suggested that also the Bank of England has more ground to cover in its normalisation cycle. EUR/GBP is testing first support around 0.88. EUR/GBP 0.8722 will be a tough nut to crack.

News and views

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand today raised its policy rate (OCR) by 50 bps to 4.75%. The Committee agreed that the OCR still needs to increase, as indicated in the November Statement, to ensure inflation returns to within its target range over the medium term. (Core) consumer price inflation remains too high, employment is still beyond its maximum sustainable level and near-term inflation expectations remain elevated. There are early signs that demand is easing but it continues to outpace supply as reflected in strong domestic inflation (7.2% headline). The RBNZ expects that inflation will stay high in the near term and is likely only to begin decline significantly from the second half of 2023. The central bank indicated that it is too early to accurately assess the monetary policy implications of recent disrupting weather events. In its monetary policy statement the RBNZ still sees the peak in the OCR at 5.5% toward the end of this year. The hawkish tone from the RBNZ communication caused the 2-y government bond yield to rise 10 bps. The kiwi dollar jumped from NZD/USD 0.621 to 0.06245, but gains eased on broader USD strength.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released data showing wages in the country rising by 0.8% Q/Q to be up 3.3.% Y/Y. (from 1.1% and 3.2% in Q3). While the 3.3% yearly pay growth was the highest since Q4 2021, markets still expected a bigger increase to about 3.5%. The Q4 pay growth was also slightly lower than the expectations of the Reserve bank of Australia. After taking a softer stance end last year, the RBA recently indicated that it will have to raise rates further to bring inflation back to target. However, softer-than-expected wages this morning triggered a correction on the recent rise in yields. After touching a new cycle top at 3.69%, the 2-y government bond yield dropped back to 3.57%. The Aussie dollar also loses further ground trading at around AUD/USD 0.6835.

KBC Bank
KBC Bank
This non-exhaustive information is based on short-term forecasts for expected developments on the financial markets. KBC Bank cannot guarantee that these forecasts will materialize and cannot be held liable in any way for direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this document or its content. The document is not intended as personalized investment advice and does not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold investments described herein. Although information has been obtained from and is based upon sources KBC believes to be reliable, KBC does not guarantee the accuracy of this information, which may be incomplete or condensed. All opinions and estimates constitute a KBC judgment as of the data of the report and are subject to change without notice.

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