The market was largely on hold waiting for the Fed’s statement to be released at 2:00pm ET. The statement was little changed, keeping in the “considerable period” phrase that many in the market had believed it would drop. The rest of the statement was little changed, which was much less than many market participants had expected the FOMC would do. However, the Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) showed a different picture. Although the commitee members’ outlooks for GDP and inflation were the same or lower, it raised its forecasts for interest rate projections in 2015, 2016, and 2017 – a curious development. This caused interest rates to rise and influenced a bear flattening in the Treasury yield curve.
Two FOMC members dissented at this meeting: Presidents Fisher and Plosser. Fisher argued that due to the recent increase in economic activity, labor market utilization, and financial market excess, the Fed will need to begin normalizing policy earlier. Plosser dissented for the same reason as the last meeting, believing that the FOMC’s forward guidance was not warranted now that the committee is closer to its economic goals.
Trading was predictably all over the map following the statement and Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s press conference. The biggest standout was the strength in the US dollar, which rallied 0.72% by the end of the equity session, a move in excess of three standard deviations. This caused gold and other commodities to fall. The yellow metal lost more than 1% for the day.
Equities traded around flat for much of the session. After the meeting, stocks briefly rose, the S&P 500 (SPX) gaining as much as 0.58% to breach its prior all-time highs, before settling back to just 0.13% for the session. Energy stocks were predictably weak thanks to the stronger USD and utilities lost in sympathy to higher interest rates. Materials and transportation stocks were strong this morning thanks to a strong earnings report from Fedex (FDX) and one of US Steel’s (X) Canadian units filing for creditor protection. Market breadth was neutral with exactly half of the issues in the SPX advancing.
August consumer prices fell 0.2% from the prior month, lowering the annual rate of change to 1.7% from 2.0% in July. Economists had expected the sequential change to be flat and the year-on-year rate to fall to 1.9%. The core rate was unchanged for the first time since 2010 (economists expected a 0.2% gain) and its year-on-year rate fell to 1.7% from 1.9% in the prior month. The NAHB survey of real-estate agent and realtor sentiment rose to its highest level since 2005.
If you didn’t get enough of the Fed today, not to worry, tomorrow morning at 8:45am Chair Janet Yellen will give a speech to the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s 2014 Assets Learning Conference. The prepared text will be released through a prerecorded video so there will be no Q&A session. Weekly initial jobless claims will be released in the morning in conjuction with August housing starts and permits. Jobless claims are expected to remain near the 300K level from the past six months. Last week’s claims rose to 315K and 304K are expected this week. New housing starts are expected to remain at a similar annual pace of 1.040 million after last month’s figure rose to 1.052 million.
Arguably the second most important event of the week – the Swiss National Bank (SNB) rate decision – is scheduled to be released at 7:30am GMT tomorrow. Because the ECB has chosen to set a deposit rate of -0.20% and the SNB must defend its EURCHF peg of 1.20, this will likely result in a second developed market central bank setting a negative interest rate. Previous comments from SNB policymakers have hinted this is a distinct possibility and the foreign exchange markets have reacted accordingly. This could end up being another headwind for the US dollars as the SNB may be forced to diversify into USD assets rather than Euro.
Another significant event is the Scottish referendum vote, which will determine whether or not it will break from the UK. The first exit polls will be released at 2:00am local Scottish time on Friday and continue until 6:00am.
Oracle (ORCL) is a major earnings report scheduled for tomorrow, the first for the tech sector. ConAgra (CAG), TIBCO Software (TIBX), RiteAid (RAD), and RedHat (RHT) will also report.