Goldman Raises March Rate Hike Odds, Sees "Strong Support For Near-Term Policy Action"

With "Goldman Guys" forming the core support pillar of Donald Trump's economic and financial advisory team, it is easy to forget that Goldman is also the one bank whose alumni also dominate not only the Fed, but all other central banks, and as such its take on Fed prepared remarks is probably the most notable of all sellside analysts.

With that in mind, moments ago Goldman's chief economist Jan Hatzius just summarized her prepared remarks as follows: "Fed Chair Yellen said the FOMC would review the stance of policy at its “upcoming meetings”; if data “continue to evolve in line” with its expectations, further tightening would be warranted. We see the remarks as offering relatively strong support for near-term policy action."

He also notes that Yellen "indicated that if employment and inflation are “continuing to evolve in line with [the committee’s] expectations”, “a further adjustment of the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate”. We see these comments as expressing somewhat more support for near-term tightening than we had expected. We therefore have nudged up our subjective probability of a rate increase at the March FOMC meeting to 20% from 15% previously"

He also made the following two key points:

1. In prepared remarks for her first day of Congressional testimony, Fed Chair Yellen indicated that the FOMC would evaluate the economy’s progress at its “upcoming meetings”. She indicated that if employment and inflation are “continuing to evolve in line with [the committee’s] expectations”, “a further adjustment of the federal funds rate would likely be appropriate”. We see these comments as expressing somewhat more support for near-term tightening than we had expected. We therefore have nudged up our subjective probability of a rate increase at the March FOMC meeting to 20% from 15% previously. We left our subjective probabilities for the May and June meetings unchanged at 20% and 45% respectively; today’s adjustment therefore implies cumulative odds of 85% of at least one hike by June (up from 80%). For the committee to move as soon as the March meeting, we would likely need to see better-than-expected data in the coming weeks, starting with a firm CPI report tomorrow.

 

2. In her comments today, Chair Yellen described the stance of policy as “accommodative”, in contrast to her remarks in January in which she said policy was only “modestly accommodative”. The former phrasing suggests that the committee will have a stronger presumption to lift rates, in our view. Lastly, Yellen declined to put emphasis on the “room to run” message she stressed at times last year, despite the modest increase in the unemployment rate. Instead, her comments focused on cumulative progress in the labor market. She said that the unemployment rate is more than 5pp from its 2010 peak, and noted that the U6 measure of labor market utilization “also continued to improve over the last year”.