From 25-27 August, Kansas City Federal Reserve hosts the biggest US monetary policy event of the calendar in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Since 1978, the world’s most influential central and commercial bankers, finance ministers and economic academics have packed their suntan lotion and gathered round the BBQ to chew the fat about economic issues, implications, and policy options connected to the biggest economic policy question of the year in the world’s biggest economy.
This year that question is “Designing Resilient Monetary Policy Frameworks for the Future.” What this means to you and me is that they will mull over whether or not the current system and the beliefs that underpin it work and if they don’t, what it could be replaced with. This is the finance world’s version of Olympics with a touch of naval-gazing thrown in – are we the best at what we do? if we are not, how should we change? and, how can we keep on top?
Speculation is rampant among financial pundits. With the next Fed policy statement due on Sept 14th, traders will be agog to see if a rate hike is on the cards or even a complete overhaul of monetary policy. San Fran’s Fed president, John Williams, has called for an increase in inflation targets while other Fed presidents have called for caution. The contradictory statements coming out of the Fed in recent days has left traders bewildered and frustrated. So it’s clear something has to change. A failure to increase rates will be seen as an admission that current policies are failing and could send markets plunging though maybe more like John Smith and less like Chen Aisen.
Improved household spending and last week’s better than forecast employment figures could give Yellen reason to hint at a rate rise on the 14th and a wide range of media pundits support this view though the Federal Funds futures doesn’t agree with only an 18% probability rate rise priced in.
Across the media there is a sense that there are two routes ahead – either a rate hike in response to improved conditions, or a major rethink on monetary policy if that’s not seen as a good enough indicator of improved economic health. The Fed’s own San Fran president John Williams has stated he wants to see a revised inflation target.
With attendees from major financial institutions across the globe, traders will be paying close attention to news updates from the Symposium across all three days. Expect lots of movement on USD FX pairs as well as the USD index and other US-based market indexes across the week. If you’re busy elsewhere then cancel during Yellen’s speech on Friday as well as first thing on Monday 29th as there will probably be a reaction when markets open.
There are certainly plenty of bears around Jackson Hole so let’s see if the markets go the same way when they hear what the world’s finance bigwigs have to say.