Most investors understand the implications of the Fed raising (or lowering) interest rates. After lowering short-term interest rates to near zero in late 2008, and keeping them there for eight years, the Fed is now committed to “normalizing” short-term rates by raising the key Fed Funds rate multiple times over the next couple of years.
The Fed policy committee will almost certainly raise the key Fed Funds rate by another 0.25% tomorrow. Minutes from the early May Fed meeting indicate that the Fed sees the 1Q economic weakness as temporary, and the odds for a rate hike tomorrow are above 90%.
Given all the unusual factors attached to the current need to increase the debt ceiling, and the very unhealthy political climate, I could see a lot of turbulence in the markets just ahead. In a worst-case scenario, a debt ceiling crisis could even result in a new recession.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported last week that US household debt reached a new all-time high in the 1Q of this year. The new report also included some troubling internal metrics, not only on the overall household debt levels but also with regard to the level of delinquencies.
For reasons that are not yet clear to me, a growing number of economists and forecasters are predicting a big jump in the economy in the current April-June quarter.
The US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan alone have over $13 trillion in quantitative easing assets on their balance sheets. The Fed recently hinted that it would like to start reducing its QE assets this year if possible.
Income Tax Day came and went last week without a great deal of fanfare. Most Americans who owed income tax to the government for 2016 either filed their tax returns and paid their bill to Uncle Sam last week, or filed for an extension and paid their estimated tax, as many do each year. Nothing new there.
Big Box retailers and many other popular chain stores – including Sears, JC Penney, Macy’s, Payless, Sports Authority, American Eagle, Radio Shack and many others – are closing their stores at a record pace so far this year.
Over the next couple of weeks, the mainstream media is likely to deluge us with warnings that the government could shut down at the end of this month. According to the Treasury Department, that’s just not true.
One key measure of US economic productivity actually declined in 2016 for the first time since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. The amount of goods and services produced, versus the total inputs of labor and capital to produce them, declined slightly last year for the first time in seven years.