By Samuel Potter
Powell’s still here
Despite the wishes of a certain person in the White House, Jerome Powell is still very much in charge of the Federal Reserve and will be delivering a press conference after the rates decision later today. The stakes have become ludicrously high: Markets have now priced in a huge dovish shift by policy makers, and ECB President Mario Draghi’s capitulation yesterday has done little to make the Fed’s life easier. Meanwhile, political pressure for a rate cut from President Donald Trump continues, even as he juices the stock rally thereby making a cut less urgent (more on that below). Former Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer has suggested that pressure from the president could have led the Fed to raise rates in December. In that case it was an act of defiance, but it still leads to the disconcerting thought that politics is creeping into decisions. The Fed is making clear it thinks the law is on its side if Trump does try to remove Powell – but it’s still not unthinkable given all the president has said about him. So, a big day all round. Here’s a decision-day guide.
The meet is on
Nothing gets done at meetings, everyone knows that. Nonetheless, the U.S. and China said their presidents will meet in Japan next week to relaunch trade talks after a month-long stalemate. Will it amount to anything, given Trump’s checkered history with meetings? The market’s verdict: Don’t know and don’t care. The S&P 500 will open today less than 1% from its all-time high after a Tuesday jump. Five Things was shocked to note that this rally-juicing announcement coincided with the launch of Trump’s 2020 campaign. But who knows, maybe there really are grounds for optimism. Trump could certainly do with a win, judging by his polling.
Tories’ Got Talent, episode 3
Britain’s quixotic quest to find a prime minister who can navigate the Brexit quagmire will continue today with a third round of voting among Conservative MPs. Boris Johnson remains the favorite after he extended his lead over rivals and hard-line Brexiteer Dominic Raab bowed out. The front-runner appeared in a chaotic TV debate with them all last night (there are now five in total) which basically failed to settle anything. By the end of the week, we should know which two will go forward to be voted on by the wider party.
It’s a somewhat mixed picture ahead of the Fed. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index surged 1.8% as it tracked the Wall Street rally, with Japan’s Topix ending 1.7% higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index was down 0.2% as of 5:50 a.m. Eastern time as real estate companies weighed on the gauge. S&P futures pointed to a flat open, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose to 2.08% and gold slipped.