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US economic performance is likely to warrant further gradual increases in the federal funds rate. Chair Yellen reiterated her view that "waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession."
As widely expected, the FOMC left its monetary policy unchanged with the Fed funds rate target range maintained at 0.5% to 0.75% at its February meeting. The Fed's balance sheet reinvestment policies were also unchanged.
As expected the ECB maintained a dovish stance, downplaying the relatively high inflation numbers of December, and focussed the speech instead on the low and stalling core inflation rate, and on the downside risks. It restated its asymmetrical forward guidance: on rates – they can go lower but not higher over the medium term; on QE – it can be increased in size and in duration but not reduced.
The ECB has been in full Barbadian-pop-star mode between September and December 2016: "work, work, work, work, work, Draghi said they have to work…". Now, after the announcement, the explanation and the publication of the legal acts, the relevant committees, the ECB and NCB staff and the Governing Council members can take a break.
Despite an uneven growth profile in 2016, the French economy's growth rate finally looks set to come out at 1.1%. Looking ahead, growth is forecast to accelerate modestly. External support factors will continue to have an overall positive impact, even if oil prices and interest rates are starting to edge upwards. In addition, the positive impact of several economic policy measures bear out our growth forecast, whose dynamism is nevertheless restricted by persistent structural constraints.
Inflation rates in the Eurozone surprised to the upside in December 2016, and we forecast that inflation will continue to rise over the next few months, coming close to 2% before receding below 1.5% during the summer. There have been voices calling for monetary tightening following these inflation figures. Calling for ECB tightening today is to misunderstand the inflation trend, the macroeconomic outlook in the Eurozone, the ECB's mandate and the way the ECB understands its mandate.
After two and a half years of active and changing monetary policy – ABSPP, CBPP 3, TLTRO I, PSPP, PSPP extension, PSPP expansion, TLTRO II, PSPP reduction, PSPP extension and change in modalities – the ECB has set the conditions for a period of unchanged monetary policy.
US risks are likely to materialise in an increase in long-term rates, an appreciating dollar, and, if the expansionary fiscal policy suddenly propels the nominal GDP growth rate well beyond its potential rate, in a far more aggressive monetary policy, especially from 2018 onwards. In 2017, the Eurozone is less likely to be impacted by real transmission channels than by financial ones, due to the tightening of financial then monetary conditions in the United States, resulting in upside pressure on interest rates, to which will be added pressures from its own political risk. In this way it will be up to the ECB alone to provide minimal visibility and steer interest rates. It will need to soothe anxious, volatile markets with the hope that, in 2018, once those national political deadlines are behind it, Europe will exist in a manner other than through its monetary policy alone.
October nonfarm payrolls rose by 161K, which is likely closer to a sustainable pace of employment generation going forward with the economy near full employment. The October unemployment rate crept down to 4.9% while the participation rate slipped to 62.8%. October average hourly earnings rose 0.4% MoM, and accelerated to a 2.8% annual pace (after revisions to September). We expect earnings to strengthen in the months ahead with the economy close to full employment.
We expect the FOMC to keep policy unchanged at its November 2 meeting with the Fed funds target range maintained at 0.25% to 0.5% and no change in the FOMC's portfolio reinvestment policies. We continue to look for the FOMC to hike rates at its December 14 meeting as part of a gradual pace of rate normalization, including two additional 25 bps rate hikes during 2017.
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