We asked traders if the Fed will finally take the plunge

August 21, 2015 09:42 AM

Howard Simons


There are really two questions here, whether the Federal Reserve will move to raise the target federal funds rate and whether they should do so. The first one is easier to answer, and that is they have spent so much time in signaling to the markets they will raise rates, probably by 25 basis points at the September FOMC meeting, that they will have to for reasons of institutional credibility.

The second question is much more problematic. While near-zero short-term rates have not had their desired macroeconomic effects of raising employment, output and economic growth during the post-December 2008 era, they have been built into currency rates, yield curves, asset prices and the debt service costs of households, corporations and governments. The increased leverage of debtors will force a reduction in credit demands and be an economic negative at a time when global growth is either slow, as in the case of the Eurozone or negative as it is throughout much of the emerging market bloc.

Please note how I eliminated discussion of the stronger dollar as that has been capitalized into markets already. However, the last thing banks with USD liabilities need right now is a stronger USD.

All of the discussion about employment statistics and inflation is something of a smokescreen. The Federal Reserve pretends it controls the core PCE measure they cite when it suits their convenience. However, this has been on a secular downtrend since the mid-1980s regardless of the monetary regime. As far as employment, how will a 25 bp rate hike affect demand for highly skilled labor in sectors such as technology or health care?

Conclusion: They will raise rates, probably in September, possibly in December, by 25 bp and then say they were sorry and it will not happen again for a long time.


Howard Simons is a long-time contributor to Futures magazine and president of Rosewood Trading Inc. Reach him at hsimons@aol.com
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