We have tracked the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rates decisions for years.
In December, we wrote an article titled “Interest Rates Win Again as Fed Follows the Market,” where we observed that although most pundits believe that central banks set interest rates, central banks actually follow the freely traded bond market in their rates decisions.
We noted that the December federal funds rate hike followed increases in the three-month and six-month U.S. Treasury bill yields set by the market.
In March, we pointed out that the Fed followed the market yet again. T-bill rates had gone sideways since November, and the Fed correspondingly kept the federal funds rate unchanged.
This week, the Fed once again decided to keep the funds rate unchanged. We expect the Fed to change course soon.
The chart shows the fed funds rate (red line) and the yield on both 3-month and 6-month U.S. T-bills (yellow and green lines, respectively). The latter two rates are freely-traded, while the former rate is set by the Fed. Observe the growing gap between the yield on short-term T-bills and the present fed funds rate. The market is leading the Fed to lower its fed funds rate.
The same behavior occurred in 2007. By June 18, 2007, the 3-month U.S. T-bill yield had declined to 4.52% since trending sideways after the Fed raised the fed funds rate to 5.25% in June 2006. The market was leading the Fed to cut rates. The spread between the two became even wider, and at its September 2007 meeting, the Fed finally acquiesced to the market and lowered the funds rate from 5.25% to 4.75%. The Fed chased T-bill rates lower in a series of rate cuts all through 2008, finally dropping the fed funds rate to 0.25% in December 2008. Meanwhile, the DJIA declined more than 50% during the entire episode, highlighting the central bank’s impotence in controlling markets.
Based on current dynamics, the market is signaling that at some point in the coming months, the Fed will lower its Fed Funds rate to align with T-bill rates. We’ll be watching.
See Chapter 3 of The Socionomic Theory of Finance for more examples of central banks’ acquiescence to markets around the world.
Steven Hochberg co-edits Elliott Wave International's Elliott Wave Financial Forecast with Peter Kendall, writes the Short Term Update thrice weekly, and provides commentary on the U.S. stock market, interest rates and precious metals for Global Market Perspective. Over the years, Hochberg has become a sought-after lecturer and has been quoted in various media outlets, such as USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Barron’s, Reuters and Bloomberg. He has also discussed financial markets on CNBC, MSNBC and Bloomberg Television. Hochberg began his professional career with Merrill Lynch and joined Elliott Wave International in 1994.
Peter Kendall co-edits Elliott Wave International’s Elliott Wave Financial Forecast with Steven Hochberg. He also provides commentary on cultural trends, the economy and the U.S. stock market for the firm’s Global Market Perspective. Kendall began his career as a financial reporter and columnist in 1983. He wrote “On the Money,” a column for The Business Journal, from 1991 to 1997. Kendall joined Elliott Wave International as a researcher in 1992 and served as the director of EWI’s Center for Cultural Studies, where he focused on popular culture and the new science of socionomics. He has been contributing to Global Market Perspective since 1995, and he also contributes to EWI’s Short Term Update. He graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, with a degree in Business Administration.
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