If Federal Reserve officials are thinking of dashing bond investors’ expectations for lower rates, they have have plenty of airtime in the days ahead to deliver that message.
Traders have already absorbed a significant blow to their rate-cut bets, after Friday’s payrolls report showed a steeper-than-expected rebound in hiring. Futures still indicate a quarter-point cut in July, although about 6 basis points more easing had been priced in before the jobs data, and it may not take much to shake traders’ conviction even further. The U.S. and China are still in talks to resolve their trade dispute, while America’s manufacturing and services industries continue to expand, even though the pace has slowed.
A Fed on hold past July could derail more than futures positions. The yield-curve flattening of the past two weeks could gain momentum, shaking off steepening bets that thrived last month as the Fed opened the door to a cut. Investors who have poured money into Treasury exchange-traded funds this year may also be blindsided. The jobs report catapulted the 10-year yield by 8 basis points from close to its lowest level since 2016, to 2.03%. It was the benchmark’s biggest jump since April, though thin turnover in a holiday-shortened week may have exaggerated the move.“No cut at all in July would likely require some talking down of market pricing by the Fed,” said Jonathan Cohn, head of rates strategy at Credit Suisse.
That’s not his base case, as he expects the Fed would be unwilling to risk undermining stocks. Economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. agree, putting the probability of a quarter-point drop this month at 60%, with a 15% chance of a larger move, according to a note published after Friday’s data.
But if policy makers are inclined to hold off, they’ll have ample opportunity to explain that. Most notably there’s Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s semi-annual testimony to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday. The minutes of last month’s policy deliberations are set for release as a reminder that, even before these stronger employment data, a slim majority of officials wasn’t expecting to lower rates this year.