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Janet Yellen has spoken. The traders have placed their bets. And markets are primed for a March rate rise.
In her remarks at the Executives’ Club of Chicago on Friday, Ms Yellen said an increase in short-term interest rates was likely to be “appropriate” at this month’s meeting as long as “employment and inflation are continuing to evolve in line with “officials’ expectations,”. The words pushed the odds of a rate rise in March to 96 per cent.
Here’s what economists are taking away from her speech.
Jan Hatzius, economist at Goldman Sachs, raised the odds of a March rate rise to 95 per cent after Ms Yellen’s remarks, saying it’s “close to a done deal” He said:
At this stage, the February employment report—to be released next Friday—may have more bearing on the committee’s guidance about action after the March meeting than on its decision whether to hike this month.
Ian Shepherdson, economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, thinks barring a “disastrous” jobs report the Fed is likely to raise rates this month and said he anticipates four rate rises this year.
This is about as blunt a statement of near-term policy intent as we have ever seen from Fed Chair, and it means that the Fed will hike unless next week’s payroll report is calamitous. That’s unlikely, so we expect rates to rise.
…But if, as Dr. Yellen points out, the neutral real rate rises as she anticipates, rates will need to rise further to prevent overheating. At this point, Dr. Yellen says she believes the Fed is not behind the curve, but when did you last hear a Fed Chair say the opposite? Watch the labor data after the March hike, because that’s what the Fed will be doing. We expect further hikes in June, September and December.
Quincy Krosby, Market Strategist at Prudential Financial, said Ms Yellen confirmed in her speech that economic conditions have met the Fed’s dual mandate. He said:
Chair Yellen has passed the baton of monetary policy underpinning the economy and by extension the markets, to the fiscal policy agenda as outlined by the Trump administration: the March Fed meeting is no longer “live”— it is ALIVE.