There was one necessary condition underlying the bond market’s ability to shrug off the worst inflation numbers in a generation after only a week; nobody is really sure if they believe the Fed. Credibility is vital to central banks, and I argued for Businessweek on Thursday that it is indeed as important an anchor to the monetary system as gold used to be. A round trip like this showed extreme hesitance to accept the Fed’s guidance; arguably, the currency of its forward guidance has been adulterated.
That said, the Fed can’t have lost all credibility. The rebound in bond yields started Thursday morning as Jerome Powell began taking his second day of questions from Congress. Unlike on Wednesday, he said that his commitment to get inflation back down to 2% was “unconditional.” That, like many central banking pronouncements in the past, had an effect. But it's still concerning that the Fed needs to be more shrill to get its message across; it does look as the coinage of forward guidance is being debased:
Meanwhile, a telling indicator of how far sentiment has swung back toward bracing for a (disinflationary) recession comes from inflation breakevens. German inflation expectations have receded after a dramatic surge over the last 12 months, although they still remain higher than they were at the beginning of the year. The same is not true of US breakevens for average inflation over the next 10 years, and for the five years starting five years hence. Both are now lower than they were in May last year — an extraordinary fact given the extent of the inflationary shock since then, and the new geopolitical drivers for inflation that have arisen this year. If you’re convinced that much higher rates of inflation are on the way, along with higher interest rates to combat them, then the market is still making it very cheap for you to bet on that outcome
There is talk of the ECB raising rates in July, but Europe is already in a recession and Germany is fearful Russia will stop natural gas exports through the original Nordstream pipeline altogether. Against that background the ensuing economic contraction would make the case for interest rate hikes moot.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top