Rate hike chances rise despite jobs report letdown

September’s jobs report came in below market expectations but was still enough to increase chances for a December interest rate hike.

Traders pushed the probability of a Fed move during its last meeting of the year from 63.9 percent before Friday’s nonfarm payrolls release to 70.2 percent afterward, according to the CME’s fed funds futures tracker. That move came even though the 156,000 increase was below market expectations for 176,000.

Each jobs report brings with it a fresh round of speculation about what the Federal Open Market Committee might do regarding rates. The committee last moved rates in December 2015, the first hike in more than nine years.

“Because (the September report is) slightly below expectations, there’s a tendency to think, ‘Oh, this is bad, this is a negative report,’ and there’s a tendency to link that with the FOMC’s view on the economy and what they will do,” said Bodhi Ganguli, lead economist at Dun & Bradstreet. “We do not plan to change our baseline forecast based on this report.”

While the market boosted chances for a December move, it is now almost completely disregarding any possibility of a November hike.

The probability for a rate rise at the Nov. 1-2 meeting dropped from 14.5 percent Thursday to 10.3 percent after the jobs report.

Janet Yellen

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Janet Yellen

In addition to there being no signs of rampant wage inflation, the Fedalso has the Nov. 8 presidential election to consider.

“The only reason they’re not doing it before (December) is the election is too close,” Ganguli said. “The election itself has some impact on people’s confidence. We don’t want to roil the confidence of both businesses and consumers too much.”

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester told CNBC on Friday that the election isn’t influencing the FOMC. Mester has been among the committee’s hawkish members, and she said that the Fed has met its mandates of full employment and inflation moving toward its target rate of 2 percent.

Friday’s report showed the unemployment rate actually edging up to 5 percent, while average hourly earnings rose by two-tenths to 2.6 percent.

“In terms of our two monetary goals, it makes sense to move up the rate another 25 basis points,” Mester said. “I think all meetings are on the table, and we’re an apolitical institution. We are technocrats. I go in thinking about what’s best for the economy in my view, and that’s what I base my decision on.”

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