Kristian Rouz — Whilst the Federal Reserve's approach to monetary policy remains "data-dependent," as the regulator put it, the recent Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) decision to leave rates on hold after having exercised some hawkish rhetoric just a month prior seems incoherent. The US macroeconomic data suggested some strength in May, however, the job market figures were a sheer frustration, and the ever-shrinking manufacturing and corporate earnings remain a concern.
Janet Yellen, the Fed Chair, is scheduled to testify before Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday and investors are looking forward to the testimony seeking clues on both the regulator's next policy moves and the Fed's assessment of the overall economic situation — historically, the Fed view on the macro situation is more accurate that that suggested by statistics.
"I think this hearing will be a key moment to look at the Fed's dual mandate domestically and its role globally," Aaron Klein of the Brookings Institution and formerly of Senate Banking Committee said.
The fact that this is an election year is complicating the Fed Chair's situation, as Yellen has to be increasingly cautious wording the policy outline and her assessments of the state of the economy. Put into office under the Obama administration, Yellen can hardly afford an overly pessimistic view, ruining the electoral appeal of the Democrats. The presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump once noted he would replace Yellen as the Fed Chair as her policies have thus far benefitted Wall Street, leaving Main Street behind, stuck in underperformance amidst whopping stock market gains.
US inflation, on the other hand, is undermined by the dollar's strength, stemming from the Fed's perceived adamancy to keep tightening monetary policies. A stronger dollar render imported goods cheaper, exacerbating US balance sheet deficit, hindering expansion in prices, and, most importantly, hitting domestic manufacturing. Cheap fuel is another factor. Whilst US core price index is at 1.7 percent, slightly below the Fed's inflation target of 2 percent, the headline inflation index is at 1.2 percent, still undershooting the desired levels.
Labor efficiency is another concern. While the economy has grown an average of 2 percent during the past five years, compared to historical average of 3.3 percent, it is again poised to slow to 1.8 per cent in 2016, should the current trends prevail — and that said, unless the economy slides into a recession due to manufacturing and corporate dismay.