Stock Index Futures Dip On Interest Rate Fears

Stock index futures declined Monday, and amid the reasons among market analysts was expectations of a hike in the fed funds rate by the Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday.

Among other things, the FOMC raises or lowers the base interest rate to help control inflation, either to speed it up or to slow it down.  Higher interest rates discourage lending and tend to put a drag on inflation, while lower rates encourage debt and tend to stimulate the economy and inflation.

The two-day FOMC meeting starts today as they seek to determine the near-term direction of monetary policy.

A hike in the Fed funds rate is considered likely by most because of signs the US economy is heating up.  There are many indicators of economic growth, but relative changes in the money supply is one, and the federal tax cuts are putting money in the hands of consumers and businesses, and the FOMC is charged with controlling inflation.

The benchmark 10-year bond yield has declined since mid-February and may be the result of fear of rising fed funds rates, according to some.  A declining bond yield also can mean a coming recession, but most analysts don’t think this is the case – at least not yet.

Plus, unexpectedly weak February retail sales came in spite of the tax cuts and reports of extra spending for the year-end holidays.  The limp retail sales pace has some economists looking at a lower annualized pace of economic expansion for the first quarter.

All of that could affect the FOMC decision to raise interest rates on Wednesday.




But perhaps the biggest reason for concern among analysts are signs the economy already is affecting consumers.

The Consumer Price Index is a measure that examines the weighted average of the prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food and medical care.  It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them.

The CPI this year is following the trend of last year and the 2012-2016 average but at a higher level.

The CPI data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an index reading of 248.991 in February, up from 243.603 a year earlier and the previous five-year average of 233.2886.  The 2018 level was up 5.388 points, or 2.21%, from February 2017 and up 15.7034 points, or 6.73%, from the average.




It may not mean much in the long run, but the CPI of many foods and beverages is defying the trend and are moving lower from January.  They remain above last year and the 2012-2016 average, however.

This may be something to watch in the future.




A total of 113 fed cattle sold Wednesday on the Livestock Exchange Video Auction at $127 per cwt, up $1 from a week earlier.

Cash sales last week were steady to $1.00 per cwt higher at $126 to $128 on a live basis.  Dressed-basis trading was reported at $205 to $207, up $1 to $2.50.

The USDA’s choice cutout Monday was down $0.72 per cwt at $224.87, while select was up $0.43 at $217.29.  The choice/select spread narrowed to $7.58 from $8.73 with 54 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Friday, was $141.73 per cwt, down $0.98.  This compares with Monday’s Mar settlement of $138.45, down $1.52.