By post WW 2 standards, the Fed surely should have raised the FFR% today and abandoned
its ZIRP. By these standards, the Fed is now engaging in heavy handed interest rate suppression.
So, what gives? Interestingly, The Fed's data on production capacity growth shows that it is
on an accelerating path, reaching 3.1% yr/yr in Nov. That represents the strongest reading of
capacity expansion since 2001, and suggests to the FOMC that the economy can tolerate
continued moderate production growth without running a high risk of overheating. And, I
think They are figuring that by keeping the ZIRP in place, additional time can be bought to
allow more slack to be wrung out of the labor market so that there is eventually stronger
full - time employment and, perhaps, some upward pressure on wage rates.
Industrial output rose a strong 5.2% yr/yr through Nov. It may also be that the Fed suspects
that this pace of growth is unsustainable especially now that it has allowed the QE program
to expire. The Fed does not want to have to come back with another QE maneuver and by
allowing short rates to hover at the zero bound level for a longer period of time, it can buy
some more insurance to extend the economic expansion. We all need to keep in mind that
we live in a highly leveraged world, and with low inflation yet still decelerating, central
banks would like dearly to avoid having the deflation wolf come to the door.
Finally, the Fed may wish to tone down the rise in the value of the US $. If keeping the
ZIRP in place for awhile will help retard the dollar's progress, well that may be ok, too
as The Fed and the Treasury know full well that foreign issuance of US $ denominated debt
has proliferated in recent years.
- Peter Richardson
- Retired chief investment officer and former NYSE firm partner with 50 plus years experience in field as analyst / economist, portfolio manager / trader, and CIO who has superb track record with multi $billion equities and fixed income portfolios. Advanced degrees, CFA. Having done much professional writing as a young guy, I now have a cryptic style. 40 years down on and around The Street confirms: CAVEAT EMPTOR IN SPADES !!!