The US Federal Reserve will be announcing their decision on interest rates and releasing the minutes of the FOMC meeting today at 18h00 GMT tomorrow. A 25-basis point hike is expected by economists and investors, with another hike in December also widely expected.
Given that the rate decision is taken as a given, all eyes will be on the wording that accompanies the decision and, on the Fed’s updated Summary of Economic Projections which will also be released. In particular, the market will be looking at whether the term accommodative will be removed or softened within the statement.
Jerome Powell is widely expected to say that risks to the economic environment are balanced, but investors will also be interested to see whether he highlights trade policy (i.e. tariffs) as a major risk to the US economy.
In the absence of any unexpected concerns regarding risks, GDP growth or inflation, the market will be looking at the Fed’s projections for the economy and rates out to 2021. This will be the first time the Fed will extend its projected rate charts to 2021, where many believe rates will stop rising and level off.
Overall, the rate announcement is likely to be a non-event and investors will look to other economic data releases, the escalating trade war, and emerging markets for direction.
The US Dollar
US Dollar has weakened since the previous meeting and sentiment remains weak around the greenback, despite 10-year treasury yields hitting their highest levels since 2011. With the market already discounting a 25-basis point hike, the Dollar is only likely to strengthen if the outlook is more hawkish than expected.
There is a very small chance (2%) of a 50bps hike but considering that another hike in December is also expected by most market watchers, even this may not be enough to boost the Dollar.
The US Dollar index (below) has breached support going back to May, and it will take a very hawkish statement for it to regain this support level at 94.75. While all of this appears to point to further weakness, this too may be contained by technical levels against other major currencies.
The EUR/USD has bullish momentum but will encounter resistance between 1.181 and 1.19 – in fact it is already struggling below 1.18. If this area of resistance is convincingly breached, we may see further USD weakness.
Most of the emerging market currencies that have been under pressure in 2018 have consolidated over the past month. In general, risk assets are back in favor, and emerging currencies have benefited from this. However, they do remain vulnerable, and any volatility that follows the Fed decision would probably lead to further weakness.
In all, the rate decision is most likely to turn out to be a non-event. The market is more likely to focus on the longer-term fallout from the trade war with China, something that will impact emerging markets and China, more than the USD itself.