NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, discounting the risk that a trade war may throw a global recovery off track, said the economy is on the cusp of “several years” where the job market remains strong and inflation stays around the Fed’s 2 percent target.
* Fed believes “best way forward is to keep gradually raising the federal funds rate”
* Inflation is “close” to the Fed’s target and “the recent data are encouraging,” Powell said
ANDY RICHMAN, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF FIXED INCOME, SUNTRUST ADVISORY SERVICES, JUPITER, FLORIDA:
“He added some language that the risk was roughly balanced, that the economy might be worse than expected or better than expected, for now. It was a little bit of a hedge from Powell.
“He had seemed a little bit more hawkish than that. He’s giving (the Fed) a little wiggle room that maybe they won’t raise rates for a fourth time this year….They’re waiting to see what happens. There are things going on with fiscal policy that are stimulative. Tax rates should be stimulative. But there’s the other side of the coin: maybe there’s a slowdown globally. There’s some trade rhetoric we’re seeing.”
“The testimony is largely in line with what we expected…If (the Fed) doesn’t tighten as much, the yield curve flattening may slow down from here. We expect the curve to stay relatively flat, but I think we’ve seen the bulk of flattening for the year.”
RICHARD FRANULOVICH, HEAD OF FX STRATEGY, WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION, NEW YORK:
“I suspect the market was pricing itself for a potential hawkish surprise, which it didn’t get. But I mean when you parse the comments there’s nothing dovish in there. Far from it. The conditions are still solid. He’s pretty upbeat on the outlook. The global picture is solid. Financial conditions are very accommodative. He rattled off a long list of reasons why you should expect solid growth.”
PAULA SOLANES, PORTFOLIO MANAGER, SVB ASSET MANAGEMENT, SAN FRANCISCO
“Powell has been very transparent with markets. He picked up where Yellen left off. Right now with the Fed’s gradual rate increases, he will continue with that approach. He wants to normalize interest rates because they have been so low for so long. The Fed wants to keep its powder dry before the next economic downturn. The Fed has been open to four rate increases in 2018. That’s still on the table with the economic data we have seen. With the trade tariffs and the flattening of the yield curve, they could slow down the rate normalization process. The market is pricing the next rate hike in September and it’s about 50 percent for another hike in December so it could go either way.
“We have been very defensive with duration. We have stayed neutral to shorter than our benchmarks because we are in a rising rate environment. We see more value in the short-end of the curve.”
GENNADIY GOLDBERG, INTEREST RATE STRATEGIST, TD SECURITIES, NEW YORK
“There’s not really anything in his opening comments to materially move rates here. Powell continues to point to gradual rate hikes, he does seem fairly upbeat on the economic situation. It does seem as though, at least in the prepared remarks, that risks are broadly balanced and there isn’t a whole lot of mention of trade. So I think, net net, (there’s) not really much here to change the outlook.”
PHIL ORLANDO, CHIEF EQUITY MARKET STRATEGIST, AT FEDERATED INVESTORS, IN NEW YORK:
“He slipped in ‘maintaining the appropriate monetary policy.’ The $64,000 question is what do they consider to be the appropriate monetary policy? That is the conundrum here. If you look at the last set of dot plots we got at the last FOMC meeting and interpreted them literally, my sense is, it implying two more quarter-point hikes this year which would take the funds rate up to 2.5 percent, four more next year which would take the funds rate up to 3.5 percent and then two more in 2020 which would take the funds rate up to 4 percent. My best guess, knowing what I think I know about the economy, is that if the funds rate is at 4 percent two years from now the Fed has probably done too much and that increases the potential risk of pushing the economy into recession perhaps in the 2021 period.”
STOCKS: Stocks pared losses slightly, the S&P was last trading down 0.05 percent.
BONDS: U.S. Treasury yields were little changed
FOREX: The U.S. dollar index .DXY pared gains