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U.S. Fed expected to hike big again and open door to downshift

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The Federal Reserve looks set to deliver a fourth straight super-sized rate increase with Chair Jerome Powell repeating his resolute message on inflation and opening the door to a downshift — without necessarily pivoting yet.

The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to raise rates by 75 basis points on Wednesday to a range of 3.75 to 4 per cent, the highest level since 2008 as the central bank extends its most aggressive tightening campaign since the 1980s.

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The decision will be announced at 2 p.m. in Washington and Powell will hold a press conference 30 minutes later. No fresh Fed forecasts are released at this meeting.

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The central bank chief may emphasize policymakers remain steadfast in their inflation fight, while leaving options open for their gathering in mid-December, when markets are split between another big move or a shift to 50 basis points.

In July, his comments were wrongly interpreted by investors as a near-term policy pivot, with markets rallying in response, which eased financial conditions — making it harder for the Fed to curb prices. The chair may want to avoid a misstep, even if he suggests a shift to smaller increases at upcoming meetings.

“They may want to go slower just in the interest of financial stability,” said Julia Coronado, the founder of MacroPolicy Perspectives LLC. “It’s a challenge for messaging because they don’t want to ease financial conditions significantly. They need tight financial conditions to keep cooling the economy off. So he doesn’t want to sound dovish, but he may want to go slower.”

Powell is trying to curb the hottest inflation in 40 years amid criticism he was slow to respond to rising prices last year. The hikes have roiled financial markets as investors worry the Fed could trigger a recession.

What Bloomberg Economics Says…

“Less certain than today’s rate-hike is how Fed Chair Powell will communicate a potential future downshift in the rate-hike pace — the degree of conviction, the risks around hike sizing, and implications for the terminal rate. We expect that he will present a 50-basis-point move as the base case and clarify that a downshift in the pace of rate hikes does not necessarily mean a lower terminal rate.”

— Anna Wong, Andrew Husby and Eliza Winger (economists)

Wednesday’s expected move comes less than a week before midterm elections in the US, where Republicans have made high inflation a top issue and tried to pin blame on President Joe Biden and his party in Congress. Last week, two Democratic senators urged Powell to not cause unnecessary pain by raising rates too high.

Rates

Economists overwhelmingly predict the FOMC will raise 75 basis points, though one is looking for a step down to 50 basis points instead. Investors are close to fully pricing in 75 basis points at this Fed meeting, according to interest-rate futures markets.

The Bank of Canada unexpectedly slowed its pace of interest-rate hikes to a half point last week, though economists noted Canada’s higher share of adjustable-rate mortgages magnify the macroeconomic impact of the central bank’s rate increases.

What Top Banks Expect in November, December

  • Bank of America: 75 bps
  • Barclays: 75 bps, 75 bps
  • Citigroup: 75 bps, 50bps
  • Deutsche Bank: 75 bps, 75 bps
  • JPMorgan Chase: 75 bps, 50 bps
  • Goldman Sachs: 75 bps, 50 bps
  • Morgan Stanley: 75 bps, 50 bps
  • Wells Fargo: 75 bps, 50 bps

FOMC Statement

The statement is likely to retain its pledge of “ongoing increases” in interest rates, but that could be “modestly tweaked in some way to indicate that you’re closer to the end” of hikes, said Michael Feroli, chief US economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. One option would be to say “some further increases,” he said.

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Press Conference

Powell since July has said it will be necessary to slow the pace of hikes at some point, and he’s likely to reiterate that, while leaving options open in December depending on incoming data. There will be two employment reports and two consumer-price reports before the Dec. 13-14 meeting.

“Markets want some indication that the Fed’s going to downshift,” said Drew Matus, chief market strategist with MetLife Investment Management. “This whole point of downshifting and moving to a slower pace of hikes is because you don’t know how much you have to do. So if it’s raining outside and I am driving, I am slowing down.”

Dissents

About a third of economists expect a dissent at the meeting. The most likely candidates would be Kansas City Fed President Esther George, who dissented in June in favor of a smaller hike, and St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who dissented in March as a hawk.

Balance Sheet

The Fed is likely to reiterate its plans to shrink its massive balance sheet at a pace of US$1.1 trillion a year. Economists project that will bring the balance sheet to US$8.5 trillion by year end, dropping to US$6.7 trillion in December 2024.

No announcement is expected on sales of mortgage-backed securities.

Financial Stability

A report on financial stability is likely to be presented during the meeting, according to Nomura’s economists, and Powell may be asked whether the pace of hikes and potentially a US recession could cause international spillovers or disruptions in US credit markets. Three-month Treasury yields topped the 10-year yield last week, a so-called inversion that is often seen as a signal of a recession.

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“We are not conditioned in the US to be dealing with a 4.5 per cent federal funds rate,” said Troy Ludtka, senior US economist at Natixis North America LLC, and there are concerns credit markets could be disrupted. “Internationally is even scarier. Europe looks terrible. China is not in recession, but I think it’s their slowest growth in a long, long time.”

Ethics Questions

Powell also could be asked about the latest incidents to raise questions about ethics standards at the central bank.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic recently revealed he violated central bank policy on financial transactions, leading Powell to ask the Fed’s inspector general to review his financial disclosures.

In a separate incident, Bullard last month attended a Citigroup-hosted meeting in Washington to which media were not invited and at which he discussed monetary policy. The St. Louis Fed has since said it would think differently about accepting such invitations in the future.

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DoorDash laying off 1,250 people, about 6% of its workforce – CBC News

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DoorDash Inc. said on Wednesday it was cutting about 1,250 jobs, or six per cent of its total workforce, as the food-delivery company looks to keep a lid on costs to cope with a slowdown in demand.

DoorDash went on a hiring spree to cater to a flood of orders from people stuck at home during the height of the pandemic, but a sudden drop in demand from inflation-wary customers has left the company grappling with ballooning costs.

“We were not as rigorous as we should have been in managing our team growth … That’s on me. As a result, operating expenses grew quickly,” chief executive Tony Xu said in a memo to employees that was posted on the company’s website.

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“Given how quickly we hired, our operating expenses — if left unabated — would continue to outgrow our revenue.”

DoorDash has about 20,000 employees worldwide, and “some of the affected employees are based in Canada,” the company told CBC News in a statement, without elaborating.

The company joins a growing list of technology firms, including Amazon, Facebook-owner Meta, Twitter, Shopify and others that have laid off thousands of employees in recent weeks as they brace for a potential economic downturn.

British food delivery company Deliveroo said in late October that sales growth would be at the lower end of its previous forecast. In September, Winnipeg-based food delivery app SkipTheDishes laid off 350 workers.

Earlier this month, DoorDash reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly net loss of $295 million US, raising questions about the growth prospect of delivery firms as economies reopen. The company’s shares have lost two thirds of their value this year.

“Greater emphasis on its cost structure is a welcoming sign, especially given the potential for consumer spending to deteriorate faster than expected,” said Angelo Zino, analyst at CFRA Research.

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'I didn't ever try to commit fraud on anyone,' FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried says – CBC News

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The man at the centre of collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX made his first public appearance since the saga began, telling a New York audience on Wednesday that it was never his intention to commit fraud.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the 30-year-old founder of FTX, appeared at the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit on Wednesday, for an interview with journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin about what happened to cause his cryptocurrency firm to collapse into bankruptcy earlier this month.

The firm, once worth more than $32 billion US, entered bankruptcy protection on Nov. 11 after a whirlwind series of days that saw it go from trying to solve a liquidity crunch by merging with a rival, to having that deal fall apart and succumbing to a run on the bank as traders pulled out $6 billion in funds within three days.

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Filings show the company owes almost $10 billion to various creditors, and at least $1 billion worth of customer deposits are missing. 

Among numerous allegations, customer deposits at FTX appear to have been used as capital and collateral for loans for an investment firm called Alameda affiliated with him — an allegation that amounts to fraud, and one that he pushed back against strongly.

‘Deeply sorry’ 

“I didn’t ever try to commit fraud on anyone,” he told Sorkin, “I didn’t knowingly co-mingle funds.”

While he acknowledged mistakes were made, Bankman-Fried rejected repeated attempts to characterize what happened at his cryptocurrency firm as being in any way malicious or illegal.

“I am deeply sorry about what happened,” he said. “I was excited about the prospects of FTX a month ago, I saw it as a thriving, growing business.”

Bankman-Fried has seen his personal net worth evaporate in the debacle, from more than $26 billion a year ago to “close to nothing” today — and he insisted that he doesn’t have any of the money that has vanished.

“I don’t have any hidden funds here. Everything I have, I am disclosing,” he said. 

“I’m down to one working credit card … [and] hundreds of dollars or something like that, in a bank account.”

WATCH | Former regulator weighs in on FTX debacle: 

Former regulatory executive weighs in on FTX collapse

19 days ago

Duration 4:04

Charley Cooper, a former executive at commodities regulator the CFTC, says the collapse of FTX is a good lesson of the inherent dangers of the cryptocurrency space.

He says, to his knowledge, there are enough funds at FTX to give users their money. But his hands are tied since he no longer has a formal role at the company since it entered bankruptcy proceedings.

“I believe that withdrawals could be opened up today and everyone could be made whole,” he said.

John Jay Ray III, the restructuring expert who has been handling FTX’s bankruptcy proceedings has said in legal filings that Bankman-Fried appears to have treated the company as his “personal fiefdom” and has called the fiasco a “complete failure of corporate controls.”

Bankman-Fried has been active on Twitter since the debacle first started, but his appearance on Wednesday marks his first public appearance since the saga began.

There was speculation he was going to appear in person, but ultimately he appeared via video link from the Bahamas, where he lives.

Legal problems

Sorkin asked Bankman-Fried if he did not appear in person because he is worried about being within the reach of U.S. agencies including the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, both of which are probing what happened at FTX.

Bankman-Fried appeared to side-step that question, remarking instead that, to his knowledge, he can still legally enter the U.S. 

“I’ve seen a lot of the hearings that have been happening [and] would not be surprised if some time I am out there talking about what happened,” he said, adding that he “does not personally think” he has any criminal liability to worry about.

That being said, he said his legal team is “very much not” supportive of his decision to appear at the summit and speak publicly about what happened at FTX. His lawyers advice was “to recede into a hole,” he joked.

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Investors focus on Powell's comments which put gold back into rally mode – Kitco NEWS

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Today gold futures are trading solidly higher as market participants react to Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech at the Hutchings Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy, held at the Brookings Institution in Washington. Market participants focused intently on his remarks which alluded to a dynamic change in the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

“Thus, it makes sense to moderate the pace of our rate increases as we approach the level of restraint that will be sufficient to bring inflation down … The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting.”

However, it must be noted that the reaction by investors at large seems to focus on what they had hoped to hear which is the Fed will begin to raise rates at a slower pace rather than his nuanced message that the time required for the Federal Reserve to achieve their goal will take much longer.

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“It is likely that restoring price stability will require holding policy at a restrictive level for some time … History cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course until the job is done.”

As of 6:16 PM EST gold futures basis of the most active February, 2023 Comex contract is fixed at $1784.60 After factoring in today’s double-digit advance comprised of dollar weakness, buyers in the market along with the rollover from the December to February contract month.

Chairman Powell’s speech today diminished the concern of investors as they reacted to other members of the Federal Reserve who have been extremely vocal about upcoming interest rate hikes. Specifically, recent remarks by James Bullard underscored the hawkish intent of the Federal Reserve. Last week he commented on the need for the Federal Reserve’s benchmark rate to go as high as 7% to deal with inflation. This week he said that “the Federal Reserve will likely need to keep its benchmark policy rate north of 5% for most of 2023 and into 2024 to succeed in taming inflation.”

Chairman Powell’s statements were not in conflict in any way with those made earlier by James Bullard and other members of the Federal Reserve in his prepared speech. However, the chairman was able to deliver this message in a much softer tone. Chairman Powell in essence cemented a 50-basis point rate hike at the December FOMC meeting. However, he stressed that slowing the pace of rate hikes would require that the Fed maintains a restrictive monetary policy for a longer period.

Gold’s recent rally from $1621 to just shy of $1800 is a reflection of a major change in the market sentiment of investors. It suggests that investors are focusing intently on inflation and that lowering inflation to restore price stability will be a multi-year process.

For those who would like more information simply use this link.

Wishing you as always good trading,

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