Bill Gross said there is a “100 percent chance” the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December after the U.S. added 271,000 jobs in October and the jobless rate fell to 5.0 percent, a 7-1/2-year low.
“They are ready to go,” Gross said in an interview with Tom Keene and Michael Mckee of Bloomberg Radio after the Labor Department reported that wages rose the most in more than six years.
Gross, manager of the $1.4 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, said his fund had a negative duration coming into the jobs report, meaning that he was positioned to make money from rising rates. He also said he was shorting the 30-year Treasury bond and advises investors to reduce risk.
"So what I would be doing is to pursue risk-off types of trades, meaning don’t invest in stocks to a significant extent and don’t invest in high-yield bonds," he said.
Gross, who has urged the Fed to raise rates, said he expected the central bank to increase rates at a pace of about 50 to 75 basis points a year. Fears that a strong U.S. dollar could hurt the global financial system may restrain the pace of rate hikes, Gross said.
“I believe the Fed will be gradual,” he said.
Other economists agreed with Gross' prediction, even Gross' former Pimco colleague, Mohamed El-Erian.
"Because of the things the Fed considers as part of its dual mandate to maintain stable prices while ensuring maximum employment, this jobs report is consistent with the central bank hiking rates for the first time in almost 10 years. But since the Fed’s policy-making officials don't meet for another six weeks, it matters a lot what happens in the interim, El-Erian wrote for Bloomberg.
Other experts also warn that a rate hike looms, but offered caveats to their predictions.
“Although I cannot excuse away the 271,000 increase in payroll employment, my view on the Fed has been based on global deflation risks being imported. This remains a key concern," Steven Ricchiuto, of Mizuho Securities, told the Wall Street Journal. "The risks of waiting for the first rate hike are much smaller than the risks of moving too soon. The small increase in manufacturing hours suggests the string of declines in industrial production may have ended but there is no reason to assume a strong advance will follow.”
With Fed officials already saying they don't want or expect the jobless rate to fall much further, it would likely take a devastating blow in the November hiring data or mayhem in financial markets for the majority of policymakers to give up on their expectation of a hike at their Dec. 15-16 policy meeting.
"We can check off a number of good-news boxes with this report. It's hard to find any bad-news boxes to check off," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, told CNBC.
"This is a report that should prompt more Americans to truly give thanks later this month. Maybe they can even add in an extra side-dish with their Thanksgiving meal."
Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans told CNBC the much stronger-than-expected report is "very good news" and supports his 2016 economic outlook of 2.5 percent growth.
The 2007-09 recession put millions of workers out of work and it has taken around 200,000 new jobs a month since 2010 to knock a 10 percent jobless rate in half.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has described the economy as strong, despite the slower job growth seen in August and September. The poor payrolls growth seen in those months had fueled doubts among investors that the Fed would raise rates this year, even though Yellen has signaled she believed a hike would be appropriate before the year ends.
The labor force participation rate held at a generational low of 62.4 percent, though the decline in the total labor force slowed a bit. There were 97,000 fewer Americans counted as not in the labor force, a number that nonetheless remains near record highs at 94.5 million.
"The Fed's hawks will now argue that they have hard evidence in the most widely watched... data that the tightness of the labor market is pushing wage gains higher. Barring a disaster in November, rates are going to rise in December," Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, told AFP.
"The case for tightening in December — and a lot more in 2016 — looks increasingly strong," Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, told AFP.
Other experts agreed:
- “It’s a solid labor market,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, told Bloomberg. “The report is pretty good across the board. December is now a very high likelihood for the Fed to hike rates.”
- “It was pretty strong," Steve Kyle, an economics professor at Cornell University, told the Washington Post. “Nobody should come away from this report frowning and thinking that would have been better.”
- “At last, a payroll report which makes sense,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told the New York Times. After two relatively weak reports that were hard to explain, given other, healthier economic data, he said, “this is consistent with all the advance indicators. Barring a disaster in November,” Shepherdson said, “rates are going to rise in December.”
- "This is a fantastic jobs number at this point in the recovery, and we're also finally seeing strong wage gains," Tara Sinclair, Chief Economist for job site Indeed, told the AP. "This data tips the scales toward a rate hike in December, but more importantly is a sign that our economy may have more punch than we thought."
- "That was an astounding number. It's pretty clear that the Fed would be justified in hiking in December if the economy doesn't hit another air pocket," Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Citigroup's Head of North America Economics William Lee says a rate hike by the central bank should be welcomed, as it would give consumer spending a boost.
"Interest-bearing assets have become a growing share of household net worth since 2009," Lee explained to Bloomberg. "This profile of rising interest-bearing assets is consistent with an aging U.S. population that has accelerated deleveraging by paying off their loans more quickly in the aftermath of the 2008 Crisis."
Lee, the former Federal Reserve Board and New York Fed economist, is jumping on board with a group of economists that include Deutsche Bank's Binky Chadha and Joe LaVorgna, UBS' Drew Matus, and JP Morgan's David Kelly in espousing the opinion that a rise in interest rates from current levels would be a net positive for consumer spending.
The economist suggests that higher interest rates enable households to save a smaller share of their aggregate income in order to meet certain targeted wealth goals that they deem to be a prerequisite for retirement. As such, more funds are then freed up for disposable spending.
An analysis by Citi found that the responsiveness of consumer spending to rising equity prices has declined — that is, the wealth effect has diminished. Conversely, since 2010, consumption growth has responded well to rising interest rates, and the magnitude of the positive income shock's transmission to spending has been increasing:
"The growing size of household holdings of interest-bearing assets has reached the point where the 'permanent' income gained from sustained higher interest rates has a material impact on expenditures," Lee asserted.
"Consequently, if interest rates rise by one percentage point, this could boost the household income by $170 billion (i.e., $256.2 billion to $85.4 billion) and consumption by 1 percent."
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