US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver

US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver
US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver

EXPERT OBSERVER

As generally expected the US Federal Reserve raised the key Fed Funds rate by another 0.25% for the seventh time since starting to hike in December 2015. This takes the Fed Funds rate to a range of 1.75% to 2%.

Supporting this the Fed sees growth as “solid” and it revised slightly upwards growth and inflation forecast for this year (with core inflation now expected to be at its 2% inflation target) and it revised down the unemployment forecast to 3.6%.

Consistent with this the median expectation of Fed officials moved up from three rate hikes for this year (ie the so-called “dot plot”) to four and it remains for three hikes next year, which taken together saw the profile for Fed interest rate expectations move higher relative to that seen in March. See the next chart.

Click here to enlarge.

US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver

What’s more there was no reference to international developments (eg on trade or Italy) as potentially slowing the Fed down and the Fed’s post meeting statement removed a reference to the Fed Funds rate likely remaining below longer run levels for some time.

Taken together (and while it only took one Fed official to change the dot plot from 3 to 4 hikes for this year) the Fed has yet again become a bit more hawkish. The Fed is continuing to raise rates gradually, but its becoming a bit less gradual.

Fed Chair Powell also indicated that starting next year the Fed will have a press conference after every meeting. While this is in the interest of transparency and doesn’t signal anything necessarily about more frequent hikes it does make every meeting “live” for a rate move.

Our assessment remains that the Fed will hike four times this year (so two more to go - in September and December) and like the Fed we expect three hikes next year.  US money market expectations, which for example see just over two hikes over the next 12 months, remain too dovish (see the previous chart) 

While the market reaction to the Fed’s announcement was a bit confused (US shares down slightly, ten year bond yields little changed and the $US down slightly) ultimately we see continued Fed tightening putting upwards pressure on bond yields and the US dollar. But because US monetary policy is still a long way from being tight it won’t yet threaten the strong US growth outlook or the ongoing rising trend in share markets. That said, the uncertainty around US inflation and interest rates will be a continuing source of volatility in share markets and serve to constrain returns this year.

For Australia, the Fed’s latest hike confirms that US growth is strong and this is good for Australia. However, the RBA is a long way from following the Fed higher in terms of interest rates because there is still a lot more spare capacity in the Australian labour market compared to the US. See the next chart. We don’t expect the RBA to start raising rates until 2020 at the earliest.

Click here to enlarge.

US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver 

Australian official interest rates have now fallen further below those in the US. Historically, a low and falling interest rate differential relative to the US has seen the $A fall and so we expect further downside in the $A over the year ahead as US rates continue to rise further above Australian rates. However, strong commodity prices should prevent a fall to $US0.48 as occurred in 2001 which was the last time Australian rates were below US rates!

Click here to enlarge.

US strong growth good for Australia: Shane Oliver 

SHANE OLIVER is head of investment strategy and economics and chief economist at AMP Capital and is responsible for AMP Capital's diversified investment funds.

 

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