You’re aware, I hope, of the idea that there’s an implicit Federal Reserve put that undergirds a stock market trading near record highs. The idea is that Fed chair Jerome Powell, would move to cut interest rates to support stocks if the market looked like it was about to tumble. (Called “The Powell Put” after the current Fed chair, it succeeds the Yellen and the Bernanke Puts in investor thinking.)
A belief in the Powell Put by many investors and traders, I’d argue, keeps more money in risky assets during times of market turmoil.
But now there way be a second Fed Put that would support share prices if the current talks on a Part 1 U.S.-China trade agreement fall apart. The Fed has indicated that interest rate cuts are on hold until the September 16 meeting, at least, unless some event threatens current assumptions about U.S. and global economic growth. One event that the Fed has cited as something that would threaten those growth assumptions would be a resumption of the U.S.-China trade war and higher tariffs that would slow growth in global trade.
That’s exactly the scenario that the Fed would face if this round of talks spiraled down the drain.
I still believe that the odds favor a successful conclusion to these Part 1 talks. Although recent events outside the talks–such as the likely signing today by President Donald Trump of Congressional legislation in support of the pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong–and informed speculation that negotiators are having trouble resolving disagreements about China’s commitment to buying $50 billion of U.S. farm products and about a schedule for reducing U.S. tariffs has lowered the odds in favor of a deal from “almost certain” to “probably.”
A December 15 deadline for the next round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese exports is putting pressure on the negotiators.
Right now the Fed Funds Futures market as traced by the CME FedWatch Tool puts the odds that the Fed will hold rates steady at 93.4% for the December 11 meeting, at 79.9% for the January 29 meeting, at 73.3% for the March 31 meeting , and at 61.6% for the April 30 meeting. You have to go all the way out to the July 29 meeting to see the odds in favor of “no move” fall below 50% (at 45.4%) and to the September 16 meeting to see the odds roughly equal for no move (at 38.6%) and one 25 basis point cut (at 38.5%.)
That means that there’s a lot of market confidence that in the Fed and in events.
It also means that there’s a lot of room for market sentiment to change before it actually significantly impacts the odds of a move. If I were a trader, I’d certainly be thinking of the opportunity that presents for making profits by betting on even a relatively small move in sentiment.