The list of opponents to the Federal Reserve’s “easy money forever” policy is growing longer.
In the U.K. … we learned that the Bank of England is tilting more to the hawkish side. Policymaker Spencer Dale joined colleague Martin Weale in actually voting for a 25 basis point hike in the BOE’s main policy rate, currently 0.5 percent. The more aggressive Andrew Sentance went even further, pushing for a 50 basis point hike.
While five members of the bank’s policy-setting committee voted for no change … carrying the day … the future direction of U.K. rates looks all but certain. And no wonder! U.K. consumer prices are rising at a 4 percent year-over-year rate.
In continental Europe … the European Central Bank is positioning for a change in policy too! ECB member Yves Mersch warned that his colleagues will “have to rebalance our monetary policy stance” soon with the economy picking up and inflation topping the bank’s target.
President Jean-Claude Trichet also reiterated his resolve to combat inflation. And again, I’ll say “no wonder!” Inflation in the euro zone climbed to 2.4 percent in January, above the bank’s 2 percent target.
In other emerging and developed markets worldwide, the rate-hiking trend I first discussed months ago is accelerating. In just the past several days, Sweden raised its benchmark rate for the fifth time in seven months to 1.5 percent … Chile hiked rates again to 3.5 percent … Israel boosted up by 25 basis points to 2.5 percent … while Vietnam jacked rates up for the second time in a week to 12 percent.
As Fed Zigs While Foreign Bankers Zag,
Consequences and Opportunities Pile Up
Yet here in the U.S., it seems like nothing much has changed. The “doves” still have the upper hand, with Chicago Fed president Charles Evans signaling this week in an interview with the Financial Times that he’s in the Ben Bernanke camp. Specifically, he said “policy ought to remain accommodative for really quite a while, even a while after conditions start to improve.”
There’s a reason I keep harping on these interest rate trends. They have serious consequences for all kinds of investments, from commodities to currencies to bonds …
First, the shift toward tighter monetary policy that’s already underway in emerging markets — and about to get underway in the U.K. and Europe — will likely flatten the yield curve. Or in plain English, shorter-term rates should climb more quickly than long-term rates as investors price in the likelihood of central bank rate hikes. That’s why the iPath U.S. Treasury Flattener Exchange Traded Note (FLAT) I highlighted a while ago is perking up.
Second, the increasing divergence between the views of U.S. policymakers and foreign ones should hurt the value of the dollar. That makes foreign currencies and debt securities more attractive. So do the relatively more attractive interest rates available overseas. That’s why I prefer emerging market bonds and funds that own short-term overseas debt securities, like the Federated Prudent DollarBear Fund (FPGCX), over U.S. Treasuries.
Third, monetary metals such as gold and silver should continue to perform well. I say that because even with rates rising overseas, they’re well below published rates of inflation. That means “real” rates, or those adjusted for inflation are negative — historically a bullish signal for commodities. Consider the U.K. example, where you have a real rate of MINUS 3.5 percent (the 0.5 percent policy rate minus the 4 percent YOY increase in consumer prices)!
Fourth, if you’re looking for more specific investment ideas and recommendations, consider subscribing to my Safe Money Report. What I’ve outlined here is just a few pages from my playbook … and I think 26 cents per day is a small price to pay for the rest!
Until next time,
Mike Larson graduated from Boston University with a B.S. degree in Journalism and a B.A. degree in English in 1998, and went to work for Bankrate.com. There, he learned the mortgage and interest rates markets inside and out. Mike then joined Weiss Research in 2001. He is the editor of Safe Money, Interest Rates Profits and LEAPS Options Alert. He is often quoted by the New York Sun, Washington Post, Reuters, Dow Jones Newswires, Orlando Sentinel, Palm Beach Post and Sun-Sentinel, and he has appeared on CNN, Bloomberg Television and CNBC.