Morning Report – FOMC data dump 9/18/14

Markets are higher after yesterday’s FOMC statement was still reasonably dovish. Bonds and MBS are down small.

Initial Jobless Claims dropped to 280,000, an extraordinarily low number that is associated with boom times like 1999 and 2005.

Housing starts were disappointing, coming in at 956k, a sizeable drop from the upward-revised 1.11 million in July. The drop was almost all in the multi-fam segment, which tends to be extremely volatile. Building Permits fell as well.

The FOMC statement kept language stating that the Fed Funds target rate should remain at current levels for “a considerable time” after QE ends. The Fed noted there remains “significant under-utilization” of labor resources. That said, the FOMC raised their Fed Funds forecast for 2015 by 1/4 and 2016 by 3/8, according to the dot graph in the projection materials. The Fed took down their unemployment and GDP forecasts for this year and next year as well. On the subject of QE, it should end this year and for the time being, the Fed will continue to re-invest maturing proceeds. They do not intend to sell their MBS portfolio. At the margin, this means lower mortgage rates going forward. Bonds sold off on the statement (probably due to the dot graph), and stocks rallied as the Fed’s posture will remain dovish for the near and intermediate future.

Note that the “significant under-utilization” language is at odds with what the Staff economists believe is going on in the labor market. The Staff Economists discussed the idea that those who are long-term unemployed may turn out to be effectively retired, and if that is the case, then there is less slack in the labor market than previously thought. The Great Recession has put a lot of men in their prime earning years on the sidelines.

I appeared on Louis Amaya’s Capital Markets Today show and discussed the FOMC statement and the economy. You can hear the interview here.

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