Can the world’s central banks save the bull market?

El-Erian: Markets are holding the Fed hostage

To think that central banks could save the bull market is tempting. After all, the promise of rate cuts and other stimulus measures have helped stocks before. And investors clearly need more than a tariff delay to relieve recent doom and gloom.

The problem is, central bank policy isn’t what’s holding back the global economy, and more monetary stimulus won’t help, according to Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group.

“The Fed doesn’t have the cure for what ails us, just as the [European Central Bank] and the [Bank of Japan] don’t at this point,” he told me.

The federal funds rate in the United States is already low by historical standards, at a range of 2% to 2.25%. Europe has had ultra-low and even negative interest rates for years. Cheap borrowing really isn’t the problem.

“There’s no business investment that’s being held back because of where rates are,” Boockvar said.

Despite this, central banks are likely to deliver what investors want when they meet again in September.

As my colleague Paul R. La Monica in New York says: “Traders are pricing in a 100% chance that the Fed will once again cut rates at that meeting. The question is, by how much? There is currently a nearly 80% chance of another quarter-point cut, which means investors believe there’s also a 20% possibility the Fed lowers rates by a half of a percentage point.”

And it won’t just be the Fed. Olli Rehn, a top ECB official, said last week that it would be “important” to come up with a “significant and impactful policy package” in September.

What’s next? Here’s more from Paul: “Minutes from the Fed’s latest meeting — the one where the central bank cut interest rates for the first time since 2008 — will be released Wednesday afternoon. Fed followers (including perhaps President Donald Trump?) will likely pore over the minutes for clues about future rate cuts.

… Keep in mind though that these minutes are from a meeting that took place three weeks ago — way back on July 31. A LOT has happened since then. The United States and China declared another trade truce. The yield curve for the two-year and 10-year Treasuries inverted, while the 30-year yield hit a record low. And stocks have been on a roller coaster.”

Investor insight: There’s growing speculation that Powell could use a speech this Friday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to signal the Fed’s next moves. Expect anticipation to build throughout the week.

It’s not getting any easier for businesses in Hong Kong

Last week, the tense political situation in Hong Kong took its first big business casualty. The question now: Will there be more?

Cathay Pacific CEO Rupert Hogg resigned on Friday after a tumultuous week for Hong Kong’s leading airline. The company was caught in the political firestorm over worker participation in the city’s pro-democracy protests, which have angered Beijing. Flights were canceled when protesters overran the airport, and bookings are down.
The city’s business elite is clearly getting nervous. Li Ka-shing, Hong Kong’s richest person, has added his voice to calls for calm as the protests start to hit Hong Kong’s economy.

“In the name of love, please turn away from anger,” read an advertisement Li placed in several local newspapers on Friday.

Week ahead

Monday: Eurozone inflation; Estee Lauder, Weibo and Baidu earnings 

Tuesday: Home Depot, Kohl’s, TJX, Urban Outfitters earnings

Wednesday: Fed minutes for July; US existing home sales; Lowe’s, Target, Nordstrom, L Brands earnings

Thursday: German manufacturing data flash; Eurozone consumer confidence; Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gap, HP and Salesforce earnings

Friday: Powell’s Jackson Hole speech; Japan inflation; US new home sales; Foot Locker earnings

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