Labor market and consumer fundamentals remain favorable, but manufacturing data continue to disappoint. We believe economic growth has slowed from earlier this year and downside risks to the outlook remain elevated. The US economy continues to face headwinds from trade disputes, slowing global economic growth, and an uncertain outlook for Brexit. However, we believe accommodative US monetary policy and a collective dovish stance by all of the major global central banks should help to combat the headwinds. We also believe the Trump administration faces significant political pressure to make progress toward a trade agreement with China as we head into an election year.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) lowered the target fed funds rate by 25 basis points in September (for the second time this year) to a range of 1.75%-2.00%. There were three dissenting votes; one policymaker favored a 50-basis point rate cut, and two policymakers favored leaving the fed funds rate unchanged. According to the Fed’s dot plot, only seven out of 17 policymakers are anticipating another rate cut before year-end. Although there is a growing disparity among policymakers about the appropriate path of monetary policy, Fed Chair Powell’s press conference suggested the Fed will be flexible and data dependent. Powell indicated more rate cuts may be appropriate if the economy slows further, but the Fed is not on a preset course. We continue to believe the FOMC is likely to cut the fed funds target rate again before year-end, in the absence of a trade resolution or meaningful improvement in market-based measures of inflation. The next FOMC meeting is scheduled for October 29-30.
The Treasury yield curve steepened modestly in September, although the curve remains partially inverted. The 3-month T-bill yield declined nearly 17 basis points to 1.81%, the 2-year Treasury yield increased nearly twelve basis points to 1.62%, and the 10-year Treasury yield increased about 17 basis points to 1.67%. An inversion of the yield curve in which the 10-year Treasury yield is lower than the 3-month T-bill yield is generally viewed as a powerful predictive signal of an upcoming recession. However, we believe increased short-term Treasury issuance to fund the deficit, and negative sovereign bond yields in other countries may be distorting the US Treasury yield curve. German sovereign bond yields (from 1-month out to 30-years) remained negative at September month-end.