August proved to be the quietest month of an unusually quiet summer. The 10-year Treasury Note had a 13 basis point range for the period. The supposed highlight of the month was to be Chairman Powell’s comments to the virtual Jackson Hole Central Bank meeting on the last Friday of the month. Despite a cadre of Central Bankers calling for an immediate halt to the open market purchases, the Chairman fell short of that mandate, saying the Open Market Committee is likely to commence tapering before the end of 2021.
While Chairman Powell and the Open Market Committee failed to signal a start to tapering open market purchases, they did inch closer. Powel described current economic condition as having mostly met the committees standard to begin to taper and suggested that an announcement would be made at the November meeting. Bond investors didn’t like the news and drove the yield on the 10-year note 15 basis points higher to end the week at 1.45%.
Economic data this week offered something for everyone. For those seeing the uptick in inflation as transitory, the Consumer Price Index data was not as bad as feared. The month-over-month CPI fell from 0.5% in July to 0.3% in August; arguably an improving trend, but still rising at an above target pace. The year-over-year rate also improved marginally falling from 5.4% in July to 5.3% in August. Again, right direction but still alarmingly high.
With the confluence of Labor Day on Monday and Rosh Hashana on Tuesday and Wednesday, we kicked off the week expecting a quiet one. Instead, corporations issued paper at a “break-neck” pace. For the week we saw 52 borrowers sell in excess of $76 billion in paper. Surprisingly, the large supply barely moved interest rates, as the 10-year Treasury note was less than 4 basis points higher for the week. The S&P 500 traded lower each successive day this week as forecasts for slowing economic growth dominated the headlines, but point-to-point the index was down approximately 1.00%. Hardly a correction!
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. economy only added 235,000 new jobs is August. That was well below the anticipated 733,000 that was the consensus expectation. The immediate question is that number weak enough to convince the FOMC to postpone the tapering of open market purchases. Given the verbal jousting of the various Fed Presidents and Governors over the last few weeks, we conclude that the answer is a solid Maybe.