Inflation: Mission Accomplished

It was a busy week for the Treasury bond market: A Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, a manufacturing outlook, inflation, wage and spending updates, and, to top it off, the monthly jobs report released Friday mornrning!

Last Monday’s March Personal Income and Outlays report didn’t include a lot of surprises. Monthly personal income was up 0.3% on the expectation of a 0.4% rise. Consumer spending was up 0.4%, as expected.

The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge, the core personal consumption expenditure price index (the PCE price index), was up 0.2% month over month, as expected. The year-over-year pace of 1.9% was below data-watchers’ 2% forecast.

In other words, there were no surprises in the report.

The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) Manufacturing Index for April came in below expectations, seeming to contradict a sector in growth mode, as the outlook was also weaker than expected. Metal tariffs and other input costs are affecting the outlook, but orders are still strong.

Treasury yields held steady… until the FOMC concluded its policy meeting Wednesday afternrnoon. The Fed held the line, but a subtle change in its policy statement did move markets a bit.

The Fed thinks inflation is under control, even though it might overshoot the central bank’s 2% target.

That’s probably because, in the Fed’s estimation, wage inflation remains low.

The FOMC changed the wording of its statement to note that the economy is growing at a moderate rate and consumer spending is also moderate while business investment grew. The Fed removed the phrases “the economic outlook has strengthened in recent months” and “the Committee is monitoring inflation developments closely.”

The markets seemed to translate the change to this: “Inflation hit our target, mission accomplished, but the economy isn’t continuing to strengthen…”

Yields jumped at this slight change but quickly backed off and settled the day lower than they began it.

The April employment situation was a mixed bag and, overall, a bit disappointing.

The market expected 191,000 new non-farm jobs. It got 164,000. The unemployment rate ticked a little lower than expected, down to 3.9%. But the labor force participation rate fell, against expectations, to 62.8%.

Most important, though, is that take-home pay grew by 0.1% month over month and 2.6% year over year. The market wanted 0.2% and 2.7%.

So what happened with long-term Treasury bonds?

Traders were buying, and yields were dropping – and that was good for my system that tracks the Treasury bond market. It means one of my positions is going in the right direction.

Good trading,