Fed hike looks sure, but then uncertainty

A trade war could have devastating consequences for the global economy. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

BRUSSELS: Clues on future U.S. policy under Donald Trump rather than economic data will likely dominate minds and markets in the week ahead given a U.S. interest rate hike in December is now a near-certainty. Investors are making plans with an implied market probability of a December rate hike in the mid-90s percent, but they are much less sure about what a Trump presidency will mean in the months and years after that. James Bullard, a voting member of the U.S. central bank’s rate-setting committee, said the Federal Reserve will raise U.S. interest rates in December barring a major shock, such as global market volatility or bad U.S. jobs data.

The next monthly payrolls data, for November, is due on Dec. 2. Except for a blip in May, U.S. employers have been hiring comfortably more than 100,000 workers each month since the last rate increase in Dec. 2015.

Rob Carnell, chief international economist at ING, said it would need something catastrophic to prevent such a rate rise, something like a sub-100,000 payrolls figure.

“Then it’s all down to the politics, who’s Trump going to pick for his cabinet,” Carnell said.

“We’ll to have to take a view as to whether these people are pro free trade or not as anti free trade as Trump sounded on the campaign trail and what we’re likely to get in policies such as fiscal expansion and the dollar.”

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said a rate increase was probably warranted “relatively soon” but cautioned there would only be gradual increases in the rate over time.

Trump’s plan to spend on infrastructure has raised inflation expectations and a possible need for faster Fed action. The prospect has already ended a 30-year bull run in bonds.

However, while the main focus has been on stimulus, economists say the Trump administration’s plans for trade are more crucial.

“From a global perspective that could be the most damaging part of the Trump administration. If you start to impose tariffs, of the magnitude the campaign talked about, it’s hard to see it would not lead to a trade war and then lead to recessions,” said UniCredit chief U.S. economist Harm Bandholz, adding there were signs that the tone had moderated.

British Finance Minister Philip Hammond will offer firm plans and an outlook on the U.K. economy as it prepares for Brexit talks with his Autumn Statement to Parliament Wednesday. No longer seeking a budgetary surplus by 2019-20, the British government is expected to announce raised spending on roads and railways.

On continental Europe, German business morale from the Ifo institute may be the big number. It is seen broadly unchanged from a two-and-a-half year high set in October.

Flash purchasing manager indices are expected to show a continuation of modest growth across Europe after a post-Brexit vote wobble, with greater buoyancy in services than in manufacturing.

Most major economies will wait until December for their central banks’ rate-setting panels to meet. Monetary policy committees will sit in Hungary, South Africa and Turkey next week, although none are seen changing rates.

Japan’s core consumer prices are seen falling for an eighth straight month in data to be released Thursday, keeping significant pressure on the Bank of Japan to maintain its aggressive stimulus package when it meets next month.

Politics dominates again in France which held a first round of primaries Sunday for the center-right, before the second and final on Nov. 27. The winner is seen as the most likely next French president.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was also expected to announce she plans to run for a fourth term.

Italians vote on Dec. 4 in a referendum on constitutional reform being pushed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has said he would resign if he loses.

Opinion polls already show a clear lead for the campaign to reject the changes, raising the prospect of political paralysis.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 21, 2016, on page 15.




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