Black Monday is happening today; it's a bona fide economic market event that is testing the very foundation of our efficient and liquid stock markets.
So, you know what that means — time to kick the can down the road on interest rate predictions.
At least, that’s what a lot of people in the industry are saying. A lot, but not everyone.
Barclays is one of the first out of the gates.
In a client note, they want the Federal Reserve to wait out the current financial tsunami coming at us from China.
We move our call to for the first rate hike from September 2015 to March 2016. Given the uncertainty around the current global outlook, the timing of the rate hike seems more uncertain than usual. Should this episode of financial market volatility prove transitory, the FOMC could raise rates in December. On the other hand, if the volatility proves durable or reveals greater than expected weakness in global activity, the FOMC may push the first rate hike beyond March.
We see a delay past mid-2016 as a relatively low probability at this point given our views on US labor markets. The US has proven durable to shocks emanating from emerging markets in the past, and we believe the current bout of uncertainty to be less pronounced than the successive shocks from developed economies that rocked global markets in 2008, 2010, and 2010.
Barclays may be the first, but it won’t be the last to make this call.
Meanwhile, in today’s Financial Times, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers says he thinks the Fed raising the interest rate this year is a bad idea.
“Tightening policy will adversely affect employment levels because higher interest rates make holding on to cash more attractive than investing it. Higher interest rates will also increase the value of the dollar, making US producers less competitive and pressuring the economies of our trading partners,” he says.
“This is especially troubling at a time of rising inequality. Studies of periods of tight labour markets like the late 1990s and 1960s make it clear that the best social programme for disadvantaged workers is an economy where employers are struggling to fill vacancies,” Summers says.
The Fed already has a bad track record this year of post hoc, ad hoc rationalization for its rationalizations. Its guidance has been as clear as the waters of the Animas River after the EPA got done protecting the environment there in Colorado.
Anyway, the Fed has to get over its skittishness. You can’t move forward if you’re constantly looking in the rearview mirror. Yes, there are concerns about international market instability. Guess what — there will be concerns next quarter, and the one after that, and so on. The China plunge this week is an economic event. Economic events happen. There will be good months and bad months for domestic metrics. Plus some of those metrics are so rigged and gamed they’re useless anyway. (Hello, unemployment rate, you big phony — glad the Fed dropped you.)
The Federal Reserve needs to be a little less, well, reserved. It needs to toughen up, raise interest rates and not apologize.
And truthfully, there is still a chance it might happen.
"Since [recent] volatility doesn’t reflect any genuine economic slump, however, we wouldn’t be surprised if it proved short-lived leaving the way open for the Fed to begin raising rates at some point this year," Capital Economics analysts wrote in a reaction email to clients. "Even a September rate hike is still a significant possibility if the turmoil abates over the remainder of this week."
This artificial ceiling on interest rates isn’t doing anyone any real favors. There may be some short-term pain but the long-term gains in terms of real economic health will make it worth it. And we’ll get to see if this economic recovery can survive without the artificial life support the Fed gives it.
Will a hike hit homebuying? Sure. It will get some off the fence and it would price some buyers out. But if the housing market is dependent on artificially low interest rates, there are bigger problems than a 0.25% hike.
This is why so many industry watchers say there’s a hollowness to a good portion of the housing recovery.
Everyone celebrates rising home prices, but if they’re rising while incomes stagnate, then to the extent that price increases are driven solely by artificially inflated borrowing power — you see the problem.
Instead of a gradual September hike, though, what we’re likely to get as more market and political voices clamor for a delay is a lengthy, mealy-mouthed rationalization from the Fed on why — after talking up a hike for most of the year — they need to delay it.
There’s never going to be a perfect time to hike rates, just as there’s never a perfect time to buy a home or have a kid or quit your job to pursue your dream.
In all these cases, the dithering has to stop and you take the sage, though insanely delivered, advice of Shia LaBeouf.