- Fed Minutes Suggest Yellen Made the Difference in ‘Close Call’
Divided in their views over the labor market, most Federal Reserve officials last month ultimately listened to Chair Janet Yellen’s argument for holding off on a rate hike, for now.
“A growing number of committee members are pulling in the direction of hiking, so it’s becoming increasingly harder for Yellen to hold them back,” said Roberto Perli, partner at Cornerstone Macro LLC in Washington and a former Fed economist.
At their Sept. 20-21 session, the Federal Open Market Committee voted 7-3 to leave interest rates unchanged. Minutes released Wednesday showed “several” of those who supported the decision to wait on tightening policy said the decision was a “close call.” Several also indicated it would be appropriate to raise rates “relatively soon.”
Following the minutes’ release, investors continued to see about a two-thirds chance of a rate increase in December, based on prices in federal funds futures contracts. They assigned a 17 percent chance to a move in November, when the Fed meets a week before the U.S. presidential election.
Investors will get a chance to hear directly from Yellen on Friday when she speaks at a Boston Fed conference. The official title of her remarks is “Macroeconomic Research After the Crisis,” which leaves open the question of whether she will comment on the outlook for the economy and monetary policy.
The record of the September FOMC meeting revealed a sharp debate over the potential impact of keeping rates ultra-low on the labor market and inflation. One camp warned this risked driving unemployment too low, possibly triggering much higher inflation and forcing the Fed to raise rates more drastically, a tack that has historically led to a recession.
An opposing group argued that more slack remains for the labor market outside the official measure of unemployment. Holding off on an increase, they claimed, could help draw people who had previously given up looking for jobs back into the work force. That would allow for continued job growth without a surge in wages and inflation.
Thomas Costerg, senior U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York, said the latter camp can point to the fact that through most of 2016, measures of unemployment remained essentially flat and the participation rate modestly climbed, even as the economy added jobs at a healthy clip. The participation rate is the proportion of working-age people employed or actively looking for jobs.
“The biggest surprise recently is this increase in the labor force participation rate,” Costerg said. “The doves say: ‘Look, there’s more running room there.’ And I think the hawks are a bit disoriented and don’t know what to do, how to interpret this.”
It also helped the doves that they had Yellen in their corner. The argument against a hike laid out in the minutes echoed Yellen’s comments at her Sept. 21 press conference following the FOMC meeting. She stressed that recent steadiness in labor force participation suggested the job market recovery has room to run.
“That argument is prominent in these minutes,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. “It does feel like it has her fingerprints on it.”
That doesn’t mean Yellen will necessarily be working to hold her colleagues back from a move in December.
“I don’t think it’s a, ‘Let’s stay on hold for six months to year’,” said Omair Sharif, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York. “It’s, ‘Let’s hold our fire for two more months so we can make a little more progress on discouraged workers.”’
Perli, at Cornerstone Macro, added the September decision may even have been a close call for Yellen herself.
He pointed to a portion of the minutes that read: “It was noted that a reasonable argument could be made either for an increase at this meeting or for waiting for some additional information on the labor market and inflation.”
Perli said the “it was noted” language frequently reflects a comment from the chair. That suggested Yellen could have gone either way, “but in a close call, like several others, she leaned toward staying on hold for now,” he said.
CBN Forced Speculators, Hoarders to Sell Dollar Lower
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s new forex policy has forced many speculators and hoarders at the Nigerian parallel market popularly known as the black market to start bringing out their forex at an even lower price.
The Naira to United States Dollar exchange rate moderated from N500 to N470 earlier this morning across the nation’s black market.
Similarly, the local currency exchanged at N620 to a British Pound, an improvement from N640 it was sold on December 1, 2020.
The story is not different against the European common currency as it gained slightly to N570, up from N580 it sold on Tuesday.
The improvements recorded against global counterparts was after the CBN directed that henceforth recipients of foreign remittance can now receive such fund in foreign currency (US Dollar) in cash or through an ordinary domiciliary account.
This means the apex bank planned to inject $20 billion estimated diaspora remittances per year into the real sector of the economy to force hoarders to sell their dollars or lose substantially and also to curb forex dealers in the habit of buying forex directly from the recipient’s domiciliary account because of old CBN policy that restricted them from withdrawing foreign currency in cash.
With this old policy out of the way, recipients of foreign remittances can now withdraw foreign currency and exchange it at any of the registered bureau de change operators across the nation at N392 to a US dollar. The bureau de change rate set by the central bank.
Investors King expects the policy to fast track the recovery process and enhance economic activity across the board, especially at a time when importers are looking for forex to bring in goods in order to meet the usual December high demand.
Naira Exchange Rate Improves as CBN Plans to Flood Economy With $20 Billion Diaspora Remittances
The Naira to US Dollar exchange rate improved by N10 to N490 on Tuesday following the Central Bank of Nigeria’s new directive that allows recipients of diaspora remittances to receive their fund in foreign currency (US Dollar) or via their ordinary domiciliary account.
The move was after the apex bank blamed the parallel market for the wide foreign exchange rate and cautioned analysts for using speculative rates as the real Naira/US dollar rate.
Therefore, the apex bank decided to inject $20 billion annual diaspora remittances into the real sector of the economy and hurt the activities of unscrupulous individuals at the parallel market.
Investors King expects this to gradually moderate the nation’s foreign exchange rate against global counterparts, deepen business activities and fast track economic recovery.
CBN Amends Forex Receipt as Naira Hits Record Low
In a bid to simplify and finally liberalize the receipt of diaspora remittances, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has amended its receipt procedures to allow beneficiaries of diaspora remittances receive such inflows in foreign currency (US Dollars).
The apex bank stated in a circular signed by Dr. O.S. Nnaji, Director Trade and Exchange Department, CBN.
In the circular, recipients of remittances can now receive funds in either foreign currency cash (US Dollars) or into their ordinary domiciliary account.
While the International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) will henceforth receive diaspora remittances in foreign currency through the designated bank of their choice.
The CBN plans to ease forex scarcity, speed up the recovery process and checkmate the activities of speculators and hoarders at the black by injecting diaspora remittances estimated at about $20 billion per year into the real economy.
This is expected to not just improve business activities but also moderate foreign exchange rate from the current N500/US$ and move the central bank a step closer to unifying the nation’s foreign exchange rates.
The circular partly reads “In an effort to liberalize, simplify and improve the receipt and administration of diaspora remittances into Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) wishes to announce as follows;
“Beneficiaries of Diaspora Remittances through International Money Transfer Operators (IMTOs) shall henceforth receive such inflows in foreign currency (US Dollars) or into their ordinary domiciliary account. Such recipients of remittances may have the option of receiving these funds in foreign currency cash (US Dollars) or into their ordinary domiciliary account.”
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