Week ahead: FOMC minutes to lift the veil on Fed’s thinking

This week sees the release of the latest batch of FOMC meeting minutes, giving insight into the Fed’s inner workings. We also get some big data releases. US retail sales are in focus after an unexpected jump in June, as well as latest CPI figures for the UK economy. 

Minutes from July’s FOMC meeting are published this week.  

Things remained pretty much where they started when the Fed met for its monthly two-day meeting last month.  

It did not lift interest rates from their current historically low level, nor did the Fed announce when it planned on altering its $120bn monthly bond-buying programme.  

“Last December, the Committee indicated that it would continue to increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $80 billion per month and of agency mortgagebacked securities by at least $40 billion per month until substantial further progress has been made toward its maximum employment and price stability goals,” said the FOMC in a statement. “Since then, the economy has made progress toward these goals, and the Committee will continue to assess progress in coming meetings.” 

The basic undercurrent is that the economy is recovering, despite rapidly rising Covid-19 case numbers. However, prevailing changes in the economy, resulting from the pandemic, may force Chairman Powell to act quicker than expected. 

We’ve seen core inflation rise in successive CPI prints – but we’ve also seen the employment rate drop too. Last month’s nonfarm payroll print was one of the strongest for years, with 943,000 new jobs added to the US economy. The unemployment rate fell to 5.4% too. 

Job participation is one of the key metrics the Fed is using to gauge the United States’ economic health to make policy adjustments. We’ve already seen some chinwagging suggest that tapering is on the way, so this may supersede the insights we’ll gain on Wednesday’s FOMC minutes release. 

Switching to data, US retail sales figures are released this week. Markets will be looking to see if June’s surprise increase was a one-off or the start of a new trend. 

Core retail sales rose 1.1% and retail sales as a whole grew 0.6% in June, something which markets weren’t expecting. From a year-on-year perspective, sales surged 18% against June’s 2020 levels. 

According to the US Commerce Department cited Covid-19 vaccinations, low interest rates, and huge fiscal stimulus as underpinning retail sales. But, as mentioned above, this was a bit of a shock for US economists. With the US economy reopening, consumer spending was trending more towards experiences and trips, rather than consumer goods. 

In fact, at the last retail data reading, May’s stats were revised down. It was a 1.7% monthly decline in May, rather than the 1.3% originally reported. Again, this was due to the switch from consumer goods to experiences. 

Staying on the data front, July’s UK consumer price index readings come on Wednesday morning.  

June’s print showed a CPI three-year high. At 2.5% in June, up from 2.1% in the previous month, consumer price inflation is now at its highest level since 2018. That may prompt the Bank of England into changing its stance on rate hikes sooner than expected. 

That said, Governor Bailey maintained the UK central bank’s dovish stance at its August meeting, deeming CPI inflation as transitionary. No major tweaks to UK monetary policy were made at this time.  

The Bank of England has adjusted its long-term inflation outlook, however. It now believes inflation will run at 3.1% throughout the next 12 months – up from the 2.8% rate forecast in June. 

Will we see another estimate-beating CPI reading this month – and will this be enough to spur Governor Bailey and co. into action?  

Speaking of central banks, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand gives its August rate statement next week.  

Rumours are flying that the RBNZ could raise rates as early as this month. It’s already committed to removing its QE programme in a move that surprised onlookers in July.  

“Our current expectation is that the RBNZ will hike interest rates in the August Monetary Policy Statement (MPS), followed by a subsequent hike in each MPS till [the] interest rate reaches 1.75% in 2022,” said Finn Robinson, economist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ). 

Currently, New Zealand’s cash rate is 0.25%, the same rate it has been for the past year. 

This is likely a response to rising CPI inflation. July’s print saw New Zealand’s consumer price index rising by 1.3%, bringing total inflation to 3.3%, passing the RBNZ’s 1-3% target. 

If a rate hike is coming, New Zealand would be one of the first, if not the first, country to do so. 

It’s also the final week of this quarter’s earnings season this week. We’re not expecting too many large caps to report in, with Walmart being the largest firm still yet to report, but you can see which companies are sharing their quarterly with our earnings calendar 

Major economic events 

Date  Time (GMT+1)  Asset  Event 
Tue 17-Aug  2.30am  AUD  Monetary Policy Meeting Minutes 
  1.30pm  USD  Core Retail Sales m/m 
  1.30pm  USD  Retail Sales m/m 
       
Wed 18-Aug  3.00am  NZD  Official Cash Rate 
  3.00am  NZD  RBNZ Monetary Policy Statement 
  3.00am  NZD  RBNZ Rate Statement 
  4.00am  NZD  RBNZ Press Conference 
  7.00am  GBP  UK CPI m/m 
  1.30pm  CAD  CPI m/m 
  3.30pm  OIL  US Crude Oil Inventories 
  7.00pm  USD  FOMC Meeting Minutes 
       
Thu 19-Aug  2.30am  AUD  Employment Change 
  2.30am  AUD  Unemployment Rate 
       
Fri 20-Aug  7.00am  GBP  Retail Sales m/m 

 

Key earnings data 

Mon 16 Aug  Tue 17 Aug  Wed 18 Aug 
Roblox Corporation  Walmart   Lumentum Holdings 
 
Cisco Systems 
 
NVIDIA