Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thursday: Weekly Unemployment Claims, Import and Export Prices

by Bill McBride on 7/11/2012 08:48:00 PM

Thursday will be another light day for economic data, but there will be plenty of discussion about the possibility of QE3. A few key dates for the Fed:

On Friday, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart, a voting member of the FOMC and someone in the "middle", will speak on the economic outlook. Next week, on July 17th, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify before the Senate Banking Committee, and on July 18th he will testify House Financial Services Committee.

The next FOMC meeting is on July 31st and August 1st, and the key piece of economic data to be released before the meeting is the Q2 advance GDP report on Friday, July 27th. Also there will be more data on inflation (especially CPI on July 17th, and Q2 / June PCE price index).

On the FOMC minutes from Tim Duy: FOMC Minutes Not a Smoking Gun

The minutes of the June FOMC meeting are out, and they did not deliver the much-anticipated smoking gun that would indicate QE3 was on its way. In fact, I think the minutes raise questions about another round of QE3 at all. The minutes hold many hints that policymakers are struggling to find a new direction for policy, one not necessarily dependent on balance sheet expansion.
Bottom Line: The minutes leaves me with the sense that it isn't so much the outlook that is holding back the Fed from further stimulus, but a lack of faith in the beneficial effects of further quantitative easing. That lack of faith may be why the bar to QE3 seems so high. So high that Fed officials are searching for other tools as the next step. Until I see more specific suggestions of other tools, I would continue to expect QE as the tool of choice. Given concerns about the functioning of the Treasuries market, MBS would seem a suitable alternative. But a building desire to explore new tools could mean a delay in any additional action. Hopefully Fed officials will give us more guidance on specific alternatives in the weeks ahead.
And from Binyamin Appelbaum at the NY Times: Fed Is Torn on Tipping Point for Action
Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics, was among the analysts who chose a position in the middle, writing to clients that “officials are edging closer to launching a third round of large-scale asset purchases, but it won’t become a reality unless the recovery loses even more momentum.”
• At 8:30 AM, the initial weekly unemployment claims report will be released. The consensus is for claims to increase slightly to 375 thousand.

• Also at 8:30 AM, Import and Export Prices for May will be released. The consensus is a for a 1.9% decrease in import prices.