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Fed's Dovish Hike Sinks USD; Dutch Elections Lift Euro

Fed's Dovish Hike Sinks USD; Dutch Elections Lift Euro

2017-03-16 11:43:00
Christopher Vecchio, CFA, Senior Strategist

Talking Points:

- Fed hiked rates by 25-bps as was widely expected, but did nothing to ratchet up expectations of a faster pace of tightening.

- Holland fails to elect a right-wing populist as prime minister, leading to hope that Le Pen will be stopped in France.

- After the FOMC decision, the crowd has increased their net-short EUR/USD and net-long USD/JPY positions, which means more US Dollar weakness could be ahead.

If one were to summarize US Dollar price action over the past 24-hours, it would aptly be described as "buy the rumor, sell the news." With the greenback rallying in the two days preceding the FOMC rate decision yesterday, only to selloff once the well-telegraphed rate hike was announced, it's safe to say that 1) the rate hike was the baseline expectation going into the event, and 2) that the commentary presented by the FOMC and Fed Chair Janet Yellen was of the dovish variety.

For the US Dollar, the lack of significant upward revisions to the FOMC's GDP and inflation forecasts, and thus, no change in their expected glide path of interest rates, can be chalked up as a disappointment. Certainly, after several months of hotter inflation data and faster gains in the labor market, expectations had been tilted towards a FOMC that would outline a path of expedited monetary tightening, which of course did not materialize. The FOMC held its ground, saying that there would be three rate hikes in 2017, just as they did back in December 2016 when they released their Summary of Economic Projections (SEP).

If a faster pace of tightening is to materialize, it will only come once there's concrete evidence of fiscal stimulus starting to look realistic - Fed Chair Yellen made clear that expectations of tax reform and infrastructure spending were not reflected in the FOMC's GDP or inflation forecasts, or the dot plot more generally. Certainly, the uncoordinated rollout of the Affordable Care Act replacement, which given its disdain by Republicans over the last 8 years should have been a straightforward process now that the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and the White House, serves as a poor litmus test for more ideologically controversial legislation regarding fiscal stimulus that have yet to come.

Between a patient Federal Reserve and now signs that populism isn't exactly sweeping across Europe, risk markets look well-supported in the near-term. The Dutch elections yesterday put a pin in the wave of right-wing ethnonationalist populism spreading through developed economies, with Mark Rutte's sound defeat of Geerts Wilder. Markets are hopeful this means Brexit and the election of US President Donald Trump were isolated incidents, and that Marine Le Pen will fail in her quest to become the next French president. According to Oddschecker, an aggregator of betting odds in Europe, the probability of an Emmanuel Macron victory after the two rounds of voting (April 23 and May 7) have increased from 55.9% at the end of last week to 60.3% today; the odds of a Le Pen victory have slumped back under 30% for the first time since February 5.

Read more: FOMC Hikes Rates by 25-bps Meeting Expectations, Sends US Dollar Lower

--- Written by Christopher Vecchio, Senior Currency Strategist

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