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By G. Steven Bray
This is a big week for interest rates. Not only do we have a lot of important economic reports, but the Federal Reserve is expected to announce it’s reducing short term interest rates by a quarter point. The Fed has been telegraphing the rate cut for weeks, so that really shouldn’t garner much attention. Instead, markets are going to be watching what Fed head Powell says in the post-meeting press conference.
Markets WANT the Fed to continue cutting rates at subsequent meetings this year, and the Fed’s forward guidance has indicated a willingness to do so – if economic conditions warrant it. So, I’m sure Powell will get peppered with questions trying to pin him down on that question. If he pulls back on future rate cuts, mortgage rates are likely to jump. Personally, I think he’ll thread the needle, showing a willingness to cut further, but saying the timing depends on economic data.
If that happens, markets will turn their attention to Friday’s jobs report. Last month’s report rebounded strongly from relatively weak May numbers. July’s economic data has been somewhat mixed, but generally positive. Consumer spending has buoyed the economy, making up for a slowdown in the manufacturing sector.
The problem is that the latter is more likely to be affected by slowing economies overseas. Thus, another strong jobs report still might not sway markets (or the Fed) from anticipating lower rates in the months to come, which probably would leave rates in their current range. On the other hand, if job growth shows a weakening trend, I suspect interest rates will follow that trend lower.