NFP beat dampens rate cut bets, but not by enough

This afternoon’s US non-farm payrolls report was even more closely watched than usual. It is common for traders to get twitchy ahead of arguably the most important monthly data release on the economic calendar, but this was different.

Markets are betting that the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates when it meets again at the end of this month. Pricing suggests multiple 25 basis point cuts over the coming 12 months.

The Federal Open Market Committee hasn’t exactly been on the same page as the markets for some time, and the latest jobs numbers given strong ammunition with which to defend their hawkishness. Economists expected to see a 165,000 increase from today’s payrolls, after May’s dire reading of 75,000, but in fact the US economy added 224,000 jobs during June.

A slight tick higher in the participation rate saw the unemployment rate inch up to 3.7%, against expectations of no change at 3.6%.

Wage growth, key inflation predictor, slowed to 0.2% month-on-month, and 3.1% year-on-year. In both cases the readings were 10 basis points lower than analysts had expected.

Market reaction to non-farm payrolls

Stock futures tumbled, with the Dow quickly shedding 180 points and the S&P 500 dropping 0.8% following the announcement as markets cut bets on easier Fed policy. US ten-year treasury yields gained six basis points in the space of 10 minutes to trade back above 2%. EUR/USD fell 0.6%, breaking through three levels of support to hit 1.1222, while GBP/USD dropped 0.7% to test 1.2500.

The latest non-farm payrolls have highlighted the disconnect between market expectations for monetary policy and what the economy is signalling is needed. It’s true that growth is beginning to slow, and some data has revealed weakness in areas such as manufacturing, but so far the market is expecting a disproportionate response from US policymakers.

Markets expect three rate cuts between now and April 2020, although bets of four are not far behind. There are no expectations of interest rates remaining in the current 2.25-2.50% range – wise, considering the data and global macroeconomic conditions – while a handful of uber doves have gone as far as pricing in seven cuts by April 2020.

Those expectations are likely to cool in the wake of the latest NFP data, but the market is still convinced that the Fed is about to embark on a rapid cycle of loosening policy. It will take a lot more than one better-than-expected data print before we reach a realistic middleground.