Monday, April 24, 2017

Merrill: "Fed to take a breather"

by Bill McBride on 4/24/2017 12:54:00 PM

The consensus view is that the Fed will hike two more times this year (probably in June and September), and then announce a changed to the balance sheet policy at the December FOMC meeting (slow down reinvestment). Merrill Lynch economists think that the Fed will move slower.

A few excerpts from a Merrill Lynch note today: Fed to take a breather

Two more hikes ... then balance sheet
Fed officials have been preparing the market for a change to the balance sheet policy. This is consistent with the Fed’s larger communication strategy – slowly hint at policy changes and test the market reaction. ... In our view, the Fed is still prioritizing interest rate normalization over the balance sheet. Moreover, we think that the Fed would like to bring rates to at least a range of 1.25 – 1.50% (two more hikes) before shrinking the balance sheet. We believe it is a tall order for the Fed to deliver two more hikes and change the balance sheet policy before yearend, leaving us to argue that balance sheet reduction is a story for early 2018.

June is a close call
Our expectation has been for the Fed to skip the June meeting and hike in September and December ... our central scenario is as follows. June: the data are not quite strong enough to pull the trigger and the Fed hints at a later date for changing the balance sheet policy. September: the Fed hikes and offers more details on the reinvestment policy. December: another hike and a formal plan for the balance sheet is released. March: they announce the change to balance sheet policy in the statement, effective April [2018]