The “discussion” in the market continues to revolve around four key areas: (1) When the Fed is going to raise rates, (2) The impact of the dollar’s rally on earnings, (3) The state of the U.S. economy, and (4) The ongoing mess in Greece. To be sure, the primary focus on an intermediate-term basis would appear to be the question of what the Fed is going to do – and when. The party line out of the Fed appears to be taking shape as there has been a flurry of Fedspeak lately. Just yesterday we heard from Fed Governors Rosengren, Mester, and Lockhart,and then some guy named Bernanke.
Thursday, Boston Fed’s Rosengren said that the Fed’s criteria for raising rates has not been met. Rosengren, who is a non- voting member of the FOMC, said in a speech on monetary policy at the Chatham House in London repeated that “the incoming data would need to improve to fully satisfy the Committee’s two conditions for starting to raise rates.”
Next up, Cleveland Fed’s Mester reiterated the data dependent theme as it relates to the Fed’s decision on raising rates. In a speech to the Forecasters Club of New York, Mester, who is also a non-voting member, said she is fine with “relatively soon” being the descriptive term used with regard to the question of when the Committee will raise interest rates. Ms. Mester added that the data must show growth has regained momentum following the latest round of weak Q1 economic statistics.
In addition, Atlanta Fed’s Dennis Lockhart, who is a voting member this year, chimed in saying that there is no preconceived plan for raising interest rates. Lockhart, who was speaking at the Palm Beach County Business Leaders Luncheon, also hit on the theme of the Fed’s data dependence. Lockhart stated, “The FOMC has also emphasized that the decision will be data-dependent. I consider this an essential discipline around our decision making on this matter. To me, data dependency means there is no preconceived plan. Data dependency means the decision will be based on the best evidence we have of the reality and trajectory of the economy.”
Heck, even Ben Bernanke, who has announced that he join the “dark side” and go to work for Citadel, was out with comments about what the Fed could to with regard to influence interest rates.
The key takeaway is that despite all the talk out of the Fed, the stock market has barely budged recently. As such, analysts can assume that the key themes the Fed governors have been stressing would appear to be baked into stock prices at this point in time. As such, it is a safe bet that the market will soon find some other shiny object to attract its attention in the near-term.
With the S&P 500 sitting at the top end of the trading range that has been intact for some time now (which, of course, followed another range which dominated the face of trading for months), the question of the day is if the market is poised to break up and out of the top end of the range – an event that would, on the surface, appear to favor the bulls – or break down and begin another trip through the range. For much of the last six months, the game plan has been for traders to sell into each and every new high. And based on the early action this morning, it appears that the fast-money has decided to implement this game plan once again.
S&P 500 Index – Daily