FOMC meeting preview: Threading a needle
Matt Weller, CFA, CMT December 15, 2020 12:48 AM
How will Fed Chairman Powell and Company weigh the near-term economic risks against the rosier medium-term outlook?
As we kick off the final full trading week of 2020, traders will be focused on a busy calendar of economic data, as well as major central bank meetings including from the Federal Reserve.
As my colleague Joe Perry noted in his Week Ahead report, the economic calendar gets off to a slow start before kicking into high gear midweek (see a full list of market-moving events on our economic calendar):
- Eurozone, UK, and US PMI surveys
- US Retail Sales
- * FOMC Monetary Policy Meeting and Press Conference *
- AU Employment report
- BOE Monetary Policy Meeting and Press Conference
- BOJ Monetary Policy Meeting and Press Conference
- UK Retail Sales
While the PMI surveys on broad economic activity and retail sales reports will be noteworthy, the most important scheduled events for traders to watch this week will be Wednesday’s Federal Reserve
When it comes to the Federal Reserve, Chairman Jerome Powell and Company will have to thread a tight needle: the economic recovery is stalling as COVID resurges across the northern hemisphere, but the prospects for a strong recovery in 2021 is growing as vaccines roll out. Muddying the waters further, the prospects for near-term fiscal stimulus remain up in the air with Congress and the White House still at odds over the details of such a program.
Speaking generally, the Fed’s most likely proactive move would be to extend the average maturity of its asset purchases. Currently, the central bank is buying $80B of Treasury bonds and $40B of agency MBS per month if (and it’s a big “if”) the central bank feels that it must act this week, officials may opt to buy more longer-term Treasury bonds in an effort to keep a lid on future inflation expectations.
While an increase in asset purchases cannot be ruled out, the central bank is more likely to “look through” the temporary economic disruptions like a COVID-driven slowdown this winter, especially as most of the Fed’s tools impact the economy only after 3-6 months anyway. Alternatively, the central bank could simply deem its current programs sufficient for now and make no immediate changes to policy.
Potential market implications
Regardless of what the Fed decides, markets are likely to be volatile as traders seek to profit on the last major scheduled economic event of the year. The base expectation is the that the Fed will tweak the maturities of its asset purchases, so Powell and Company take that path, market moves will likely be limited with perhaps a dash of US dollar weakness and support for US indices.
The more interesting trading scenarios emerge if the US central bank refrains from making any changes (a decision that would likely push the greenback higher and US indices lower) or increases asset purchases (which would likely extend the buck’s recent downtrend and boost US indices to record highs).
USD/JPY in particular looks coiled for a big move if the Fed surprises traders. The pair has spent the last month consolidating in a 100-pip range between 103.70 and 104.70, despite the US dollar’s continued weakness against other rivals. If the Fed opts to stand pat, USD/JPY could see an upside breakout and move toward 106.00, while an expansion to the central bank’s asset purchases could take USD/JPY down through 103.00 to test the lowest levels since the initial COVID swoon in March:
Source: TradingView, GAIN Capital
Learn more about forex trading opportunities.
This report is intended for general circulation only. It should not be construed as a recommendation, or an offer (or solicitation of an offer) to buy or sell any financial products. The information provided does not take into account your specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs. Before you act on any recommendation that may be contained in this report, independent advice ought to be sought from a financial adviser regarding the suitability of the investment product, taking into account your specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs.
GAIN Capital Singapore Pte. Ltd., may distribute reports produced by its respective foreign entities or affiliates within the GAIN Capital group of companies or third parties pursuant to an arrangement under Regulation 32C of the Financial Advisers Regulations. Where the report is distributed to a person in Singapore who is not an accredited investor, expert investor or an institutional investor (as defined in the Securities Futures Act), GAIN Capital Singapore Pte. Ltd. accepts legal responsibility to such persons for the contents of the report only to the extent required by law. Singapore recipients should contact GAIN Capital Singapore Pte. Ltd. at 6826 9988 for matters arising from, or in connection with the report.
In the case of all other recipients of this report, to the extent permitted by applicable laws and regulations neither GAIN Capital Singapore Pte. Ltd. nor its associated companies will be responsible or liable for any loss or damage incurred arising out of, or in connection with, any use of the information contained in this report and all such liability is hereby expressly disclaimed. No representation or warranty is made, express or implied, that the content of this report is complete or accurate.
GAIN Capital Singapore Pte. Ltd. is not under any obligation to update this report.
Trading CFDs and FX on margin carries a high level of risk that may not be suitable for some investors. Consider your investment objectives, level of experience, financial resources, risk appetite and other relevant circumstances carefully. The possibility exists that you could lose some or all of your investments, including your initial deposits. If in doubt, please seek independent expert advice. Visit cityindex.com.sg for the complete Risk Disclosure Statement.