2015 will be year of US interest rate rise tantrums

January 2, 2015 09:18 AM

The scene looks set for the U.S. Federal Reserve to start raising interest rates in 2015--a shift in the monetary cycle, which could unleash more turmoil in currency and other markets, such as equities. It will also highlight increasing divergence between the US and the Eurozone and Japan. 

The U.S. economy is in good health and could grow faster in 2015 than it did this year. It will be further helped by the recent collapse in oil prices putting more money into the pockets of all important US consumers. As in previous economic cycles, the US is likely to be able to shrug off the poor economic outlook in much of the rest of the world as most of its demand tends to be domestically generated rather than relying on exports. 

At the same time unemployment levels are likely to continue falling and next year they should reach levels, which could see the beginnings of wage inflation. Once the effect of lower oil prices has worked its way out of the CPI numbers, the US Federal Reserve will have less reason for restraint on interest rates. These are likely to start increasing in H2. 

The effect of U.S. interest rate rises--or at least the anticipation of them coming, which the Fed is likely to telegraph to the market ahead of it happening--will unleash further volatility. This could put more downward pressure on vulnerable emerging market currencies and spark a big sell-off in equities markets, which seem the least prepared of the major asset classes for the coming change in US monetary policy.

The test for the Fed is whether it will tighten regardless of 'rate rise tantrums' and push ahead on the basis that a normalisation of monetary policy is actually a very good sign in that the real economy can take it.

The forex markets seem better prepared for the change in U.S. monetary policy, which has been reflected in the soaring USD, which is not just down to the end of Fed's quantitative easing programme, but also in anticipation of U.S. interest rate rises. Indeed, when they do come there could actually be a sell-off of USD as traders take profits as anticipation has become news. Nonetheless, it is unlikely to fall very far or for that long as USD should remain a holding currency of choice given the United States' strong economic fundamentals.

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About the Author

Justin Pugsley is the forex and gold markets analyst for New Zealand-based trading platform provider MahiFX. He is a keen student of markets, economics and history. Prior to working with MahiFX, Justin worked for a number of leading media organisations such as Thomson-Reuters and Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal.