Why Markets Aren’t Buying Fed’s Claims on the Strength of U.S. Economy

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via marketwatch:

Fresh worries about the global economy and a surprisingly dovish turn by the Federal Reserve have rattled Wall Street, but it’s nothing that a week or two of good news can’t cure.

The good news might not come this week, however.

A large chunk of the economic reports coming down the pike are stragglers from the 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year. The U.S. trade deficit in January and February reports on home construction, new-home sales and consumer spending were delayed almost an extra month.

These reports won’t and shouldn’t be ignored, though.

Home sales and construction might offer clues on whether the steep drop in mortgage rates since last October is reinvigorating a faltering housing market. That would go a ways in alleviating worries about the economy.

So would an improvement in consumer spending in January after a big decline in December.

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Perhaps most important, the tea-readers of the U.S. economy will get their first look in 2019 at the price barometer the Federal Reserve sees as the best weather vane of inflation.

The so-called PCE index, like other price indicators, is likely to show declining inflationary pressures early in January. The yearly rate of PCE inflation slowed to 1.7% in December — the last available figures — from a six-year high of 2.4% last summer.

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Read: The Fed is gun-shy because of a quarter-century of low inflation

Subsiding inflation is what triggered the Fed last week to abandon plans to raise interest rates any more in 2019. The move stunned many on Wall Street who expected the central bank to adopt milder changes in its strategy to safeguard the economy.

“The Fed got spooked,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities.

 

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