As Economy Slows, Bond Investors Say Fed Won’t Raise Rates

A month ago, bond investors were predicting that the Fed would be raising interest rates several times in 2019. As the economy is now clearly slowing, those same investors are predicting the Fed has now done its job and won’t be raising rates in the New Year. Said the Wall Street Journal:

Fed-funds futures, which investors use to bet on the direction of Fed policy, on Wednesday showed a 91% probability that the central bank’s policy makers will finish the year [2019] with interest rates at or below their current levels.

That is a reversal from early November, when futures prices indicated a 90% probability that rates would end 2019 higher than they are now.

The latest report from the Institute of Supply Management merely confirmed that slowing economy, with its manufacturing survey published on Thursday coming in below forecasters’ expectations (which were below October’s).

The New American has been tracking and noting the slowing of the U.S. economy that has been established policy at the Fed for many months now. In November we noted that homebuilders were already feeling the pinch of higher interest rates, which the Fed had imposed on the economy earlier in the year. The NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) monthly confidence index dropped a staggering eight points from October, providing an “early warning signal on the direction of the economy” and running the risk that the Fed “might just be steering the economy off the highway and into the weeds.”

A few days later The New American reported that our position that the Fed’s intervention was intentional and deliberate was confirmed by Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at the Wharton School of Finance. He told CNBC’s Closing Bell on November 21 that “the market is saying that the pace [of the Fed’s interest rate hikes] is a little too fast.… The market is clearly worried about over-tightening by the Fed.” We noted remarks by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell made in October that the Fed was “a long way from ‘neutral,’” implying that more rate hikes were in the plan in order to slow the economy.

In December The New American warned its readers not to be fooled into focusing only on the proposed interest-rate hikes the Fed was using to slow the economy but to also focus on the “runoff” of billions of dollars of bonds it was holding as they matured. At the time we said:

Since September 2014, the Federal Reserve has been intentionally and deliberately shrinking the money supply — the capital that a capitalist system needs to thrive and prosper — from $4.15 trillion to $3.5 trillion as of November 21, 2018. That’s 15-percent shrinkage in the “oxygen supply” the capitalist system needs.

But it’s worse than that: Most of that shrinkage has taken place since last September. Since then the Fed has reduced the money supply (its “Adjusted Monetary Base” numbers are available from the St. Louis Fed’s website) from $4.0 trillion to $3.5 trillion, a reduction of 12.5 percent.

That money-supply shrinkage is now showing up in the various places pundits are looking to place the blame, i.e., anything that affects the financial well-being of the economy. As interest rates rise and the money supply shrinks (the two most powerful tools the Fed is using to slow the economy), housing starts slow, car sales dwindle, credit card payments increase, profit margins decline, and capital expenditure projects are taken off the board as they are no longer profitable enough to be justified….

It’s the Fed that stands athwart the economy’s startling growth trajectory.

A week later, we noted a reversal by bond investors who saw a slowing economy and changed its mind about the Fed’s continuing efforts to slow it further: “The Fed was expected to continue raising rates well into 2019 but now futures traders (those who bet real money and not just ink on Bloomberg’s website) are backing off. They are betting that the Fed might raise interest rates one more time next year (instead of the three to four times experts were predicting just a month ago) and some are putting large sums down on the bet that — ready? — the Fed will reduce interest rates by one notch next year instead.”

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