January 31, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
At 2 p.m. Eastern Time, the Federal Reserve will announce its latest monetary-policy decision. With all economists surveyed by Bloomberg expecting no change, investors will closely read the statement for any hints of a hawkish turn. Today also marks Janet Yellen’s last meeting as Fed Chair, with Jerome Powell taking the position when her term ends on Feb. 3. Investors are pricing in an 85 percent chance of a hike at the first meeting he will chair next month. There is no press conference scheduled today.
Consumer prices in the euro area rose 1.3 percent in January, slowing from December’s 1.4 percent pace, according to this morning’s flash estimate from Eurostat. The continuation of inflation well under the European Central Bank’s ‘close to, but below 2 percent’ target remains a puzzle for policy makers, in the face of robust growth and falling unemployment. Separately, data from Germany showed that unemployment dropped by a greater than expected 25,000, leaving the jobless rate at a record low 5.4 percent.
State of the Union
President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address yesterday, saying that the U.S. has arrived at a new American moment of wealth and opportunity. There was little of the president’s trademark antagonism in the speech as he made a bid for a bipartisan tone, promising to unify the country. His opponents did not think he went far enough, with some grumbling and booing among Democrats in the Congress during the speech. There was little policy in the address for markets to latch on to, with the dollar weakening in the aftermath.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.2 percent, while Japan’s Topix index closed 1.2 percent lower as the yen continued to strengthen against the dollar. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was broadly unchanged at 5:50 a.m. following this morning’s economic data. S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.707 percent and gold was slightly higher.
A barrel of West Texas Intermediate for March delivery was trading at $64.11 by 5:50 a.m., continuing its retreat from a three-year high on estimates that U.S. stockpiles increased last week. Investors will be looking to earnings from oil majors beginning this week to see whether companies, flush by the recent advance in crude prices, will give money back to shareholders or engage in further exploration, with the latter shaping projections on future production.