Faced With 'Significant Deterioration,' Fed Begins Its Rate Hike Walk-Back
The recent trickle of bad news has become a torrent. From just the past couple of days:
(MarketWatch) - Retail sales in the eurozone fell more sharply than expected in June, a fresh sign that the currency area's economic recovery remains too weak to quickly bring down very high rates of unemployment, or raise inflation to the European Central Bank's target.
The European Union's statistics agency said Wednesday retail sales in the 19 countries that use the euro fell 0.6% in June from May, but were up 1.2% from the same month last year. It was the largest month-to-month fall since September 2014. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had estimated sales fell 0.2%, having seen figures from Germany that recorded a large drop.
Eurostat said sales in Germany were down 2.3% from May. That's a blow to hopes that low unemployment and rising wages in its largest member would boost the recovery in the eurozone as whole, as Germans purchased more goods and services from weaker parts of the currency area.
But the weakness in retail sales wasn't confined to Germany, and is also a setback to the ECB's goal of raising the annual rate of inflation to its target of just under 2%.
(Yahoo Finance) - The slump in oil prices deepened Monday, pulling down the price of U.S. crude to the lowest level in more than four months.
The move came as traders braced for softer demand amid an increase in the number of active rigs and signs of weakness in U.S. construction spending and manufacturing.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.95, or 4.1 percent, to close at $45.17 a barrel in New York. U.S. crude has been declining since reaching a high this year of $61.43 a barrel on June 10. It's down 15 percent so far this year.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, declined $2.69, or 5.2 percent, to $49.52 a barrel in London. It's down 13.5 percent this year.
ADP said Wednesday U.S. private employers hired 185,000 workers in July--below the 215,000 analysts had expected and lower than the downwardly revised additions of 229,000 for June.
The meltdown has pushed as many commodities into bear markets as there were in the month after the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., which spurred the worst financial crisis seven years ago since the Great Depression.
Eighteen of the 22 components in the Bloomberg Commodity Index have dropped at least 20 percent from recent closing highs, meeting the common definition of a bear market. That's the same number as at the end of October 2008, when deepening financial turmoil sent global markets into a swoon.
Not surprisingly, the Fed is now wondering if its promise/threat to raise rates in September risks adding fuel to the deflationary fire (see Can You Imagine The Fed Raising Rates In This World?). So it sent one of its talking heads out to reassure rattled markets that it won't do anything rash:
Fed Governor Jerome Powell said he and others on the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee will, between now and the closely watched Sept. 16-17 meeting, analyze data on the labor market in particular before making that decision.
"Nothing has been decided. I haven't made any decisions about what I would support, and certainly the committee hasn't," Powell said on CNBC.
The governor's unusual appearance on morning television came a day after a newspaper quoted Dennis Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed, saying it would take "significant deterioration" in the U.S. economy for him to not want to begin tightening monetary policy in September.
This week's numbers certainly look like "significant deterioration."
Based on current trends, it is now likely that US rates will not just decline in 2016 but will join those of Switzerland and Germany in negative territory. The experiment continues!