The Doves Are Circling Above a December Rate Hike

Not long ago, it seemed that a fourth and final rate hike to cap off 2018 was a sure thing, but the sell-offs in October and its spillover into November may have caused the Federal Reserve to take on a more dovish tone heading into December.

The CME Group’s FedWatch Tool, an algorithm that calculates the probability of a rate hike in a given month, is currently showing a 79.2% chance the Federal Reserve will institute a fourth rate hike for December. Nonetheless, the latest comments from various Fed members might be signaling otherwise.

Just as the bears appear to be reigning in the capital markets, the doves may start to be appearing as 2018 comes to a close. For example, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell exhibited signs of cautiousness as he discussed the economy at a symposium with Dallas Fed President Robert S. Kaplan earlier this month.

“So, you know, a good example is — a noneconomic example would be you’re walking through a room full of furniture and the lights go off. What do you do? You slow down. You stop, probably, and feel your way,” Powell said.

In the meantime, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams is keen to sticking with hiking rates–somewhat.

“We’ll be likely raising interest rates somewhat but it’s really in the context of a very strong economy,” Williams said at a community event in New York on Monday. “We’re not on a preset course. We’ll adjust how we do monetary policy to do our best to keep this economy going strong with low inflation.”

Meanwhile, Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida was recently on a CNBC segment, stating that signs of slowing are beginning to materialize in the global economy. It isn’t just the comments themselves as some analysts are noting that the timing of the latest comments come just a month away from December’s interest rate announcement.

“The market is perceiving them as being more dovish…It’s a small pivot because they’re acknowledging the idea that when you get closer to the end of a hiking cycle you have to feel your way through. You want flexibility. It doesn’t mean they have to stop soon,” said George Goncalves, head of fixed income strategy at Nomura.