It’s a long-standing adage in Washington that the federal debt is a problem only when the other party is in charge. Republicans label Democrats as the party of “tax and spend,” while Republicans are deemed the party of “borrow and spend.”
Nonfarm payrolls were reported to have risen by “just” 98,000 in March, while the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level (4.5%) since May 2007. The March 14-15 FOMC minutes “revealed” that officials plan to begin reducing the size of the Fed’s balance sheet later this year.
Consumer spending accounts for 69% of Gross Domestic Product. Last week, the data on the household sector were mixed. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index surged to a 16-year high.
Upcoming data reports will help to fill in the near-term picture of the economy, while developments in Washington will lead to a reassessment of the intermediate outlook.
The Fed’s outlook on the economy hasn’t changed much since December. In turn, policy expectations are largely the same as well. Officials are comfortable enough in their outlooks to continue gradually normalizing monetary policy, but they don’t see enough pressure to move more rapidly.
Prior to seasonal adjustment, the U.S. economy added more than a million jobs in February (unadjusted payrolls rose by 831,000 in February 2016 and by 832,000 in February 2015).
The majority of U.S. economic data are based on statistical samples and the various figures are typically adjusted for seasonal variation. That means that the numbers are subject to some level of uncertainty.
President Trump is expected to announce a revised tax cut plan soon. In the meantime, it’s worth revisiting how the sausage gets made in Washington. By law, tax code changes must originate in the House of Representatives, and the Senate will have its say.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen will present her monetary policy testimony to Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. We may not learn much new regarding the pace of future rate increases (which will remain data-dependent) and she’s certain to avoid getting into any discussion of fiscal policy.