Interbank Market News Scan: Federal Reserve signals closer eye on hedge fund and prime brokerage ebullience…

FedSpeak: Fed governor Lael Brainard issues statement about resiliency in the financial system …

Statement by Governor Lael Brainard, 6 May 2021

“The latest Financial Stability Report provides valuable analysis to track increases in financial system vulnerabilities. I would highlight a few areas. Vulnerabilities associated with elevated risk appetite are rising. Valuations across a range of asset classes have continued to rise from levels that were already elevated late last year. Equity indices are setting new highs, equity prices relative to forecasts of earnings are near the top of their historical distribution, and the appetite for risk has increased broadly, as the “meme stock” episode demonstrated. Corporate bond markets are also seeing elevated risk appetite, and the spreads of lower quality speculative-grade bonds relative to Treasury yields are among the tightest we have seen historically. The combination of stretched valuations with very high levels of corporate indebtedness bear watching because of the potential to amplify the effects of a re-pricing event.

The FSR describes the failure of Archegos Capital Management and the associated losses at a number of large banks. It highlights the potential for nonbank financial institutions such as hedge funds and other leveraged investors to generate large losses in the financial system. The Archegos event illustrates the limited visibility into hedge fund exposures and serves as a reminder that available measures of hedge fund leverage may not be capturing important risks. The potential for material distress at hedge funds to affect broader financial conditions underscores the importance of more granular, higher-frequency disclosures.

With investors ebullient on expectations for a strong rebound, it is important to closely monitor risks to the system and ensure the financial system is resilient. With valuations and risk appetite at elevated levels, strong microprudential safeguards and macroprudential tools such as the Countercyclical Capital Buffer will be important to address risks to financial stability and enable monetary policy to focus on its maximum employment and average inflation goals.”

Links to follow …

Banks. A choppy day of trading on Wall Street ended Thursday with stocks broadly higher and another all-time high for the Dow Jones Industrial Average. US Stocks Close Higher as Banks, Technology Lead Broad Rally | Business News | US News

Banks, Archegos. The dust hadn’t yet settled on Archegos Capital Management’s implosion, when hedge funds started shifting their bets toward banks that avoided getting hurt, hoping to keep leveraging up just like before. Good luck with that. Archegos Blowup Crimps Hedge Fund Leverage as Banks Cut Risk – Bloomberg

Banks. The European Central Bank will take a closer look at bank loans to lightly regulated investment funds and specialised lenders after the spectacular collapses of Archegos Capital Management and Greensill, top ECB supervisor Andrea Enria told Reuters. ECB to inspect loans to shadow banks after Greensill, Archegos fiascos (msn.com)

Foreign exchange rates of interest

Currency PairsRates as of 10:27 pm EST 6 May 2021Rates as of 8:27 pm EST 5 May 2021 Change in pips
EUR/USD1.20601.2007 +53
GBP/USD1.39041.3904 No change
AUD/USD0.77800.7746 +34
USD/CAD1.21541.2269 -115
USD/JPY109.1100109.2500 -1400
USD/NOK8.30288.3504 -476
USD/CHF0.90770.9127 -50
USD/SEK8.42238.4830 -607
USD/MEX20.086020.2560 -1700
Source: Reuters
Selected Rates 
Fed Funds.05
Bank prime rate3.25
Fed Funds target rate.25
2-yr Treasury.15
10-yr Treasury1.57
30-yr2.24
Source: Bloomberg

Interbank market news scan: Lael Brainard provides detailed description of the inflationary bump expected from the American Recovery Plan …

The following remarks by Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard were delivered yesterday before the annual conference of the National Association of Business Economics …

“It has now been a year since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States. The past year has been marked by heartache and hardship, especially for vulnerable communities, as well as by the resilience and extraordinary efforts of Americans everywhere, particularly those on the front lines. The past year has also seen determined efforts on the part of policymakers—public health, fiscal, and monetary—to do what is necessary and stay the course until we return to full strength.1

These determined efforts have contributed to a considerably brighter economic outlook. A comparison between the median of the most recent Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Summary of Economic Projections (SEP) and the first projection following the onset of the pandemic, in June of last year, highlights the improvement in the outlook. The change in the SEP median suggests an improvement in the projected level of gross domestic product of 6 percent at the end of 2021 and 2022, a decline in the unemployment rate of 2 percentage points at the end of 2021 and 1-1/2 percentage points at the end of 2022, and an upward revision to the headline inflation rate of 0.8 percentage point at the end of 2021 that narrows to a 0.3 percentage point upward revision at the end of 2022.2 The expected improvements in the outlook reflect progress on controlling the virus, nearly $3 trillion in additional fiscal support, and forceful and timely support from monetary policy.

Although the outlook has brightened considerably, the fog of uncertainty associated with the virus has yet to lift completely, and current employment and inflation outcomes remain far from our goals. The focus on achieved outcomes rather than the anticipated outlook is central to the Committee’s guidance regarding both asset purchases and the policy rate. The emphasis on outcomes rather than the outlook corresponds to the shift in our monetary policy approach that suggests policy should be patient rather than preemptive at this stage in the recovery.

Outcomes
Recent data indicate that activity has picked up this year. After a dip in the final months of 2020, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) stepped up considerably so far this year, and spending on durable goods has been particularly strong. This pattern appears consistent with a quick spend-out from the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) stimulus checks at the turn of the year, particularly among lower-income households that may have previously exhausted the funds provided in the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act).3

Like the spending data, the labor market data turned more positive in January and February following weakness at the end of 2020. Although the unemployment rate has moved down 1/2 a percentage point since December, the K-shaped labor market recovery remains uneven across racial groups, industries, and wage levels.4 The employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio for Black prime-age workers is 7.2 percentage points lower than for white workers, while the EPOP ratio is 6.2 percentage points lower for Hispanic workers than for white workers—an increase in each gap of about 3 percentage points from pre-crisis lows in October 2019.

Workers in the lowest-wage quartile continued to face staggering levels of unemployment of around 22 percent in February, reflecting the disproportionate concentration of lower-wage jobs in services sectors still sidelined by social distancing.5 The leisure and hospitality sector is still down almost 3.5 million jobs, or roughly 20 percent of its pre-COVID level. This sector accounts for more than 40 percent of the net decline in private payrolls since February 2020. Overall, with 9.5 million fewer jobs than pre-COVID levels, we are far from our broad-based and inclusive maximum-employment goal.

Inflation similarly remains far from the goal of 2 percent inflation on average over time. Both headline and core PCE inflation were below 2 percent on a 12-month basis throughout 2020 and came in at 1.5 percent in January.

Finally, while vaccinations are continuing at an accelerating pace, over two-thirds of the adult population have yet to receive their first dose, and there are risks from more contagious strains of the virus, social-distancing fatigue, and vaccine hesitancy.6

Outlook
As the economy reopens, the potential release of pent-up demand could drive stronger growth in 2021 than we have seen in decades. However, it is uncertain how much pent-up consumption will be unleashed when social distancing completely lifts, and how much household spending will result from the new stimulus and accumulated savings. With PCE accounting for roughly 70 percent of the economy, this uncertainty about consumption spending contributes to uncertainty about activity, employment, and inflation.

In part, the outcome will hinge on distributive questions that are imperfectly understood. Households accrued considerable additional savings that led to a $2.1 trillion increase in liquid assets by the end of last year.7 Higher-income households appear to have cut back on discretionary services spending over the past year and increased their purchases of durable goods, which may see some satiation going forward. For moderate-income households that are not cash constrained, it is possible there will be a lower near-term spend-out from the American Rescue Plan payments relative to the CAA payments, given that less than 75 days elapsed between the two rounds of payments. Households whose cash flows were improved by the CAA stimulus may save more of the most recent stimulus for precautionary reasons. That said, there is upside risk if a substantial fraction of stimulus payments and accumulated savings are spent in 2021 rather than more slowly over a longer time period.

On the other side, there is potential for some leakage abroad if, as anticipated, foreign demand growth in some regions is weaker than in the United States. Imports soared during the second half of last year and grew further in January, even with worsening backlogs at U.S. ports. As port congestion and supply chain bottlenecks ease, international spillovers could lead to some slippage between the increase in domestic demand and resource utilization, which has implications for employment and inflation.

In the labor market, as vaccinations continue and social distancing eases, businesses in hard-hit services sectors will increase hiring, accelerating the pace at which workers find employment. The strong and timely support from fiscal as well as monetary policy likely reduced the extent of scarring during the pandemic, which should aid the pace of hiring at in-person services establishments once the virus is well controlled.

The speed of further improvement in the labor market following the initial rush of reopening is less clear, however. Some employers may be cautious about significantly increasing payrolls before post-COVID consumption patterns are more firmly established. Others may be implementing measures to stay lean and contain costs. In the December Duke CFO survey, roughly one-half of CFOs from large firms and about one-third of those from small firms reported “using, or planning to use, automation or technology to reduce reliance on labor.”8

In addition to greater use of technology, there is likely a significant amount of slack on the participation and part-time margins. The EPOP ratio among workers ages 25 to 54 is still a full 4 percentage points below its pre-COVID level, and the number of workers working part time because they cannot find a full-time job is 1.7 million higher than pre-COVID.

Although core and headline PCE inflation came in at 1.5 percent on a 12-month basis in January, the well-anticipated base effects from price declines in March and April of last year will cause inflation to move above 2 percent in April and May. It also seems likely that a surge of demand may be met by some transitory supply bottlenecks amid a rapid reopening of the economy, leading PCE inflation to rise somewhat above 2 percent on a transitory basis by the end of 2021.

Entrenched inflation dynamics are likely to take over following the transitory pressures associated with reopening. Underlying trend inflation has been running persistently below 2 percent for many years.9 In addition, research suggests that although increasing labor market tightness may show through to wage inflation, the pass-through to price inflation has become highly attenuated.10 These results suggest that businesses tend to respond to increased labor costs by reducing margins rather than increasing prices later in the cycle. Thus, as resource utilization continues to tighten over coming years, recent decades provide little evidence to suggest there will be a material nonlinear effect on price inflation.

Policy
The FOMC has communicated its reaction function under the new framework and provided powerful forward guidance that is conditioned on employment and inflation outcomes. This approach implies resolute patience while the gap closes between current conditions and the maximum-employment and average inflation outcomes in the guidance.

By focusing on eliminating shortfalls from maximum employment rather than deviations in either direction and on the achievement of inflation that averages 2 percent over time, monetary policy can take a patient approach rather than a preemptive approach. The preemptive approach that calls for a reduction of accommodation when the unemployment rate nears estimates of its neutral rate in anticipation of high inflation risks an unwarranted loss of opportunity for many of the most economically vulnerable Americans and entrenching inflation persistently below its 2 percent target.11 Instead, the current approach calls for patience, enabling the labor market to continue to improve and inflation expectations to become re-anchored at 2 percent.

One simple illustration of this difference is the way in which FOMC communications under the new framework have shifted market expectations around the conditions associated with the lift off of the policy rate from the lower bound. This shift is suggested by a comparison of the surveys of primary dealers and market participants conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the most recently available surveys, in January 2021, and under the prior policy framework, in March 2015. In the January 2021 surveys, the median respondent expected the unemployment rate to be a bit below 4 percent at the time of liftoff, as compared with 5.3 percent in the March 2015 surveys. Similarly, in the January 2021 surveys, the median respondent expected a 12-month headline PCE inflation rate of 2.2 to 2.3 percent at the time of liftoff, as compared to roughly 0.5 percent in the March 2015 surveys. The most recently available surveys suggest that market participants expect policy to look through the rolling off of base effects as well as possible transitory price increases due to short-term supply-demand imbalances.

The FOMC has stated that in order to anchor inflation expectations at 2 percent, it seeks to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time. This language recognizes that the public’s expectations of inflation are linked to the experience of inflation outcomes. In the nine years since the Committee formally defined price stability as annual PCE inflation of 2 percent, the average 12-month PCE inflation reading has been 1.4 percent. Persistently low inflation creates the risk that households and businesses come to expect inflation to run persistently below target and change their behavior in ways that reinforce low inflation.12

With inflation expected to rise above 2 percent on a transitory basis, I will be closely monitoring a dashboard of indicators to assess that inflation expectations remain well anchored at levels consistent with the Committee’s objective. These indicators include survey and market-based measures, along with composite measures like the staff’s Index of Common Inflation Expectations.13 Survey measures have picked up a little but remain around pre-COVID levels. Meanwhile, five- and 10-year TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities)-based measures of inflation compensation have moved up almost 1 percentage point since last summer and are now at levels last seen in 2013 and 2014. These changes likely reflect both the improvement in the anticipated outlook and market participants’ understanding of the Committee’s new reaction function.14

The overall price-stability objective of achieving inflation that averages 2 percent over time provides an important guidepost for assessing the path of inflation. Along with realized inflation, I will be monitoring a range of average inflation concepts in the literature to assess the path of policy that would be consistent with closing the inflation gap under a variety of make-up strategies.15

While the outlook has brightened considerably, with jobs nearly 10 million below the pre-COVID level and inflation persistently below 2 percent, the economy remains far from our goals, and it will take some time to achieve substantial further progress. By taking a patient approach based on outcomes rather than a preemptive approach based on the outlook, policy will be more effective in achieving broad-based and inclusive maximum employment and inflation that averages 2 percent over time. The combination of patient monetary policy, together with accelerating progress on vaccinations and substantial fiscal stimulus, should support a strong and inclusive recovery as the economy reopens fully.”

Interbank market news scan: Federal Reserve, community development, foreign exchange rates …

Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard made the following remarks regarding the economy, the Federal Reserve, and low income communities:

“Thank you, President Kaplan, our Advance Together partners, and everyone here for joining us today. I am honored to participate in this event and welcome the awardees of this important initiative to celebrate your success. Today marks a significant milestone in this effort to improve economic opportunity for residents of 25 counties across the great state of Texas. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas created Advance Together as a way to promote initiatives in Texas that reduce inequities in education and workforce development, and these Implementation Awards recognize outstanding examples of furthering those goals.

The Importance of Education and Workforce Development Initiatives
At the Federal Reserve, our community development mission is to promote economic growth and financial stability across the country, particularly in vulnerable communities. The ability to access quality education and training to build workforce skills is critical for low-income workers seeking greater opportunity for themselves and their families. Likewise, reducing the disparities in labor market opportunities among individuals in our society helps to support broader economic growth and financial stability.

These issues have taken on even greater importance over the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our personal and professional lives and continues to cause economic hardship for many Americans. While the economy has recovered substantially from the effects of the pandemic, it is concerning to see signs that the improvements have been uneven, with some households continuing to struggle with unemployment and facing financial difficulty.

Information from the Federal Reserve Board’s Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking, or SHED, provides evidence of these disparities.1 In the July 2020 responses to the SHED, many households reported major employment disruptions due to COVID-19, including layoffs, reductions of hours, or unpaid leave. By mid-summer, many of the affected individuals had returned to work, and many were receiving unemployment insurance benefits and other financial assistance. Even so, unemployment remained very high in July, and 23 percent of SHED respondents said they were either “just getting by” or “finding it difficult to get by.” Not surprisingly, those experiencing employment disruptions disproportionately reported that they were likely to have difficulty paying their bills.

The survey showed that employment disruptions and financial challenges disproportionately affected people of color and low-income families. And, unlike during previous recessions, a larger share of working women than men were laid off from their jobs.2

For many families, the pandemic exacerbated existing financial challenges. Economic mobility is largely driven by family financial stability and geographic resources such as transportation, quality education, and broadband access. The Fed’s research and its ongoing work in community development show that there is no quick fix for the disparities in household financial stability. And no single organization or government agency can solve these complex problems alone.

The Importance of Collaborative Efforts
This brings me to the importance of collaboration to address multidimensional community issues. While affordable housing and quality jobs are two very visible needs for low-income households, meeting these needs requires strategies that stretch across the fabric of the whole community, including childcare, education and training, transportation, and a safe and healthy environment. Collaboration between individuals and organizations of different talents and strengths can help find the kind of holistic solutions needed to bring greater opportunity to those at risk of being left behind in the recovery.

Today, we are here to celebrate Advance Together, one such effort to foster economic inclusion through innovative and collaborative programs. In 2020, the Federal Reserve completed a review of “place based” community development initiatives, those focused on a single community or area, across its 12 districts. While the place-based initiatives varied in purpose, scope, and approach from community to community, the very best of those local collaborations are reflected in Advance Together’s winning proposals. Most notably, each of these community-driven initiatives uses evidence-based research, fosters public–private partnerships, and promotes a collective vision for success.

The four winners that we are honoring today are the Educate Midland and Education Partnership of the Permian Basin; the Big Country Manufacturing Alliance, based in Abilene; the Family Pathways 2-Gen Coalition in Austin; and the Deep East Texas College and Career Alliance.

It has truly been a pleasure to learn about the unique and innovative efforts each of you are undertaking to address the education and workforce challenges in your own communities. Members of the Educate Midland & Education Partnership are analyzing student data to deepen their understanding of student outcomes by race and to identify practices that can reduce inequities in education and workforce development that limit economic opportunity. The Big Country Manufacturing Alliance is streamlining training and job placement for young workers interested in manufacturing careers. The Family Pathways 2-Gen Coalition supports students with children on their path to a college degree. And, finally, the Deep East Texas College and Career Alliance is helping rural and first-generation college students attain post-secondary credentials that are in demand by employers.

Just as Advance Together benefited from past place-based initiatives, the lessons learned from your local collaborations will inform and influence new community strategies going forward. I look forward to following your efforts to create economic opportunity in communities across Texas. It’s really an honor to join in your celebration today. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all of the participants.”

Federal Reserve data

As of February 19, 2021, the Federal Reserve reported the prime bank rate is 3.25%.  The discount window rate is at .25% and the effective fed funds (interbank overnight rate) is at .07%. 

The Federal Reserve also reported the 2-year Treasury yield at .11; the 10-year yield at 1.34%, and the 30-year yield at 2.14%.

Foreign exchange rates:

Currency pairsExchange Rate as of 4:15 pm 22 February 2021(1) As of 6:23 am EST Exchange Rate as of 23 February 2021(2)(3)
AUD/USD0.7873 0.7896
USD/CAD1.2596 1.2613
USD/CNY6.4555 6.4631
EUR/USD1.2136 1.2149
USD/INR72.5000 72.4890
GBP/USD1.4025 1.4089
USD/JPY105.5800 105.1300
USD/MXN20.4000 20.7170
USD/DKK6.1268 6.1225
USD/NOK8.4467 8.4661
BTC/USD  51,971.1000
ETH/USD  1,700.9700
Sources: Federal Reserve(1); Reuters-FX rate(2), Crypto-rates(3)

My takeaway of Brainard speech: Fed maintaining steady course. No impact on the interbank markets.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, recently delivered a speech discussing the Federal Reserve’s policy for achieving a two percent inflation goal. She reiterated the Federal Reserve’s FAIT policy, a strategy that uses a flexible average inflation targeting strategy for achieving two percent inflation. The aim, according to Governor Brainard, is to keep inflation moderately above two percent for some time, allowing the economy to make up for any short falls along the way due to running below the two percent goal.

Governor Brainard would like to see the Federal Reserve focus on achieving full employment particularly for low and moderate income U.S. households. Price inflation has not been as responsive to labor market tightness as it has in the past, The Federal Reserve aims to eliminate shortfalls to maximum employment of human capital.

I didn’t hear anything in Governor Brainard’s comments that would have a direct impact on the interbank markets, whether for foreign exchange or for overnight loans.