Futures point to higher open for Wall St

US Stock Markets
Fed policymakers show rising confidence on inflation
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24 February, 2018

The Fed's projection on rate hikes came with the release Friday of its semi-annual monetary report to Congress. Powell will testify on the report before the House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday, making his first public appearance since taking over as chairman earlier this month.

A separate report from the Conference Board showed a bigger than expected increase by its index of leading economic indicators in the month of January. But it said the rate was likely to remain low enough to stimulate the economy over the next two years.

Investors will get more news out of the Fed on Thursday, as New York Fed President William Dudley, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, and Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan are all due to deliver remarks. If inflation, consumer sentiment, or manufacturing output overshoot the current expectations, there could be four rate increases this year.

"It may be appropriate later this year to begin an assessment of our current monetary policy framework and alternatives", Mester said in prepared remarks to a conference of central bankers and economists in NY. The benchmark 10-year note yield initially fell from session highs after the release, but recovered to reach a fresh four-year high above 2.95 percent.

The Fed's key policy rate is now in a range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent.

That said, the Fed might react to market swings, should they continue, by implementing rate hikes as well.

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The gains in Asia followed a sell-off Thursday after minutes of the Fed's last meeting showed policy makers were confident about the economic outlook. In an interview with Bloomberg (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/mnuchin-says-us-wages-can-rise-without-boosting-inflation-2018-02-23), Mnuchin brushed aside concerns over rising wages, saying these didn't necessarily have to trigger a rise in overall inflation.

Earlier this month, stocks suffered their first 10 percent pullback since early 2016.

Hong Kong stocks pulled back from a two-week high hit in the previous session as investors took profit from sectors such as tech and financials, although the decline was capped by inflows from mainland China. It was a dramatic turnabout, as stocks initially moved higher following the release of the minutes, as investors (and algorithmic trading systems) focused on the few hints of dovishness sprinkled in the document.

The minutes also did not suggest that officials were pushing for more than three interest rate hikes this year which the central bank had telegraphed previously. Yellen presided at the January meeting, which occurred before the market turmoil, and the Fed left rates unchanged.

"The Fed minutes and the lead up to the March meeting could push that fourth rate hike into play as we find more about inflationary data and how the Fed is looking into that".

But analysts are more upbeat about the outlook for the region despite prospects of rising US inflation and rates.


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