FOMC’s July 2017 Meeting Minutes Preview, Due For Release At 19:00 London, 14:00 New York On Wednesday 16th August 2017
The July meeting saw the Federal Reserve leave it Federal Funds target range unchanged at 1.00-1.25%, with a 9-0 vote. Heading into the decision focus was on the rhetoric surrounding the normalisation of the FOMC’s balance sheet, and the policy statement (full version available here) noted that the Committee expects to begin shrinking its balance sheet “relatively soon.” The statement also saw the Fed highlight that it expected inflation on a “12-month basis” to remain below 2% in the near-term (which was deemed dovish), although the statement did go on to highlight that the FOMC expects inflation to stabilise around 2% over the medium term. The language surrounding these two areas will once again garner the most attention in the upcoming release.
Barclays expect the minutes of the July FOMC meeting to “provide further information regarding the timing of balance sheet normalisation and the degree of consensus within the committee.”
While HSBC believe that “the July minutes are likely to show extensive discussion about the slowdown in inflation over the past several months. Some of the policymakers likely held to the view that diminishing labour market slack should eventually put upward pressure on inflation. Others may have argued the FOMC should be cautious with respect to additional policy rate hikes unless the inflation data start to pick up.”
Since the statement various FOMC voters, namely Dudley, Kashkari, Evans and Kaplan, have indicated that they would be comfortable with an announcement regarding balance sheet normalisation being made at the September meeting, while non-voters (including Bullard) have also backed such a move.
In terms of broader policy issues, the most recent US CPI release (for July) was soft and saw CME Fed Fund futures pricing in a sub 35% chance of one further 25bps hike in 2017, with Kashkari (a noted dove) arguing that the release gave the FOMC more scope to “wait and see” before hiking rates again. This was before permanent Fed voter, Bill Dudley, suggested that “if the economy evolves in line with expectations, I would expect to be in favour of doing another rate hike later this year.” This was followed by a strong retail sales dataset (with upwards revisions), which has led to CME Fed Fund futures pricing a circa 50% chance of a 25bps hike by year end (at the time of writing).
Barclays believe that “balance sheet normalization will likely start in September and the hurdle is quite high for the FOMC to deviate from what it has been signalling so far. We will also look for more detail on how concerned the FOMC is with the incoming data on inflation. Although we think concern has risen, we do not believe there is sufficient worry yet to derail a likely December rate hike.”