Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is set to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on July 10 and at the Senate Banking Committee on July 11. Powell will be able to either reinforce market expectations for a rate cut in late July rate cut or pull them back. During this testimony, Powell will answer questions on the economy and Federal Reserve policy, according to CNBC. The Fed will next decide on rates on July 31, and many are anticipating a rate cute.
Powell’s testimony comes on the heels of a strong June jobs report. The U.S. economy added 224,000 jobs in June and so Powell’s upcoming testimony raises questions on whether or not the Fed will cut rates this month. The influx of new 2224,000 news jobs surpassed the Dow Jones’ estimate of 165,000 new jobs. The new job report also sent the benchmark 10-year Treasury yield back above the key 2% level. Additionally, the dollar rallied against a number of currencies, which consequently pressured commodities like gold.
In a note, Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy at BMO Capital Markets, wrote, “The report was “stronger than expected, but with an accompanying -11k in revisions, the job gains were nothing to derail the Fed’s anticipated cut in 26 days.”
Ahead of Powell’s testimony, there are other places in the market to look for hints at what the Fed policy will be, like in the Fed’s minutes from its last meeting, in which it suggested it could cut rates if it needs to. Another clue could be in consumer price index inflation data on Thursday and producer level inflation data on Friday, when PPI is reported.
It is possible that Powell’s comments to Congressional committees could clarify whether the Fed is on course to cut interest rates later this month.
Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpoint tells CNBC,.“It’s not clear to me the data are going to create a screaming case one way or the other. What it comes down to, is the Fed able to validate the market’s dovishness here?”
Stanley continued, “The one thing that has characterized Fed communications over the last month or six weeks is they’re just not willing to commit to anything ahead of time.”
There have been big hopes riding on a rate cut and as such bond yields have lowered and supported stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite hit all-time highs. Meanwhile, the tech sector surged more than 1% and the communications services sector rose more than 2%.
While a rate cut is expected, economists say there could be a violent swing in the markets if Powell’s testimony doesn’t align with a rate cut. The fed funds futures market is pricing in one full quarter-point rate cut and a little more for July.
Stanley added, “I personally don’t see the case for an ease right now.” He continued, “Do they passively accept the market’s verdict or do they push back, in that they’re not fully on board with an ease right now? It would be easy to realign the market’s expectations. Powell speaks next week and that would be the perfect opportunity if they were so inclined.”
Stanley also said a move like that would upset the stock market and weaken financial conditions, which is not what the Fed is looking to do.