Markets on Tenterhooks for Fed Policy Decision, But Many Households Aren’t Paying Much Attention

At 1:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday, investors and analysts around the world will be poring over their computer and television screens in anticipation of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy decision, which could influence U.S. interest rates as well as stock, bond and currency markets around the world. Yet a new survey suggests that many U.S. households don’t follow Fed actions that closely. Almost half of Americans surveyed, 44%, said they didn’t know when the Fed most recently short-term interest rates, according to the survey by the personal finance website WalletHub. For the record, the Fed has raised its benchmark federal-funds rate twice this year, in March and in June, bringing it to a range between 1% and 1.25%. It is likely to leave the rate unchanged Wednesday. That’s not to say that people don’t have an opinion about the expected impact from an increase in interest Continue reading "Markets on Tenterhooks for Fed Policy Decision, But Many Households Aren’t Paying Much Attention"

Gold Standard Didn’t Really Tame Inflation, New Research Says

Fixing the U.S. dollar’s value to gold or silver is not the inflation-controlling panacea advocates claim, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Inflation was on average lower before World War I, the report finds. Those were the years before the creation of the Federal Reserve, when the value of money was generally tied to a gold or silver standard. In contrast, the U.S. has seen average inflation rise since World War II, when the dollar was largely free of such metallic constraints. The main difference between the two periods is that deflation, or sustained declines in the overall price level, disappeared after World War II. St. Louis Fed economist Fernando Martin says inflation in the pre-Fed period was highly volatile as elected leaders periodic took the dollar off the gold standard and then re-established it. That created surges of inflation that Continue reading "Gold Standard Didn’t Really Tame Inflation, New Research Says"

Economists React to the June Jobs Report: ‘Doing Well Enough’

U.S. nonfarm employers added a seasonally adjusted 222,000 jobs in June. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.4% from 4.3% the prior month as more people joined the workforce. Here are early reactions from economists and analysts to Friday’s report: “June employment data and the attendant upward revisions confirm what a lot of recent ‘soft’ data have been indicating—the economy is doing well enough.” —Steven Blitz, TS Lombard “The 222,000 gain in nonfarm payrolls in June, which was well above the consensus forecast at 179,000 and even our own more upbeat 200,000 estimate, is another illustration that the real economy is in good health.—Paul Ashworth, Capital Economics “Typically when low unemployment is paired with a low participation rate, workers should see wages increase. But in our slow-growth market we are seeing them stagnate, which is not good news.” —Michael Stull, Manpower North America Continue reading "Economists React to the June Jobs Report: ‘Doing Well Enough’"

5 Things to Watch in the June Jobs Report

Travis Dove/Bloomberg
The Labor Department releases its June employment report Friday. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect employers added 174,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.3%. #1: Slower Gains U.S. employers added 138,000 jobs in May, capping off a relatively soft three-month stretch. Over the past year, nonfarm payrolls have increased by an average of 189,000 jobs per month, a pace that may be difficult to match if workers are increasingly scarce while the labor market tightens. “Filling new openings will continue to become more difficult for employers,” said Mark Simenstad, chief investment strategist at Thrivent Asset Management. #2: What’s Driving the Rate The unemployment rate fell to 4.3% in May, the lowest level in 16 years. If it holds or even falls, that would also suggest the labor market is tightening and reinforce Federal Reserve plans to raise short-term rates a third time this year. Continue reading "5 Things to Watch in the June Jobs Report"