When William Dudley, head of the New York Fed, says it’s time to raise interest rates as he did on Tuesday, the financial markets go “Ho, hum.” Dudley has been in the sooner rather than later camp at the Fed for months. And he’s one of Fed chair Janet Yellen’s closest allies on the need to raise interest rates soon because the labor market has reached full employment, inflation is near the Fed’s 2% target, and and the economy is strongly on track.
But when Fed governor Lael Brainard says, as she did on Wednesday, that the economy is in a transition, which, if continued would allow the Fed to normalize rates gradually and also begin discussions on when to start reducing the size of the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet, it’s a big deal precisely because Brainard has been one of the strongest voices at the Fed arguing that the Fed needs to keep rates lower for longer.
If Brainard is moving toward advocating an interest rate increase, then the Fed is close to the kind of unaminity that Fed chairs have historically tried to engineer before important interest rate policy decisions.
Today, yields on 10-year Treasuries rose three basis points to 2.48% after climbing six basis points Wednesday. Yields on 2-year Treasuries, which are among the most sensitive maturities to changes in the Fed funds rate, climbed again today to 1.31%. This is the first time the yield on the 2-year Treasury has been above 1.3% in seven years.
In the futures market a record number of Fed Funds futures traded as everybody and their Aunt Sally moved to protect portfolios against an increase in interest rates at the Fed’s March 15 meeting.
The CME Fed Watch tool calculates that the odds on an interest rate increase at the March 15 Fed meeting climbed to 79.7% today from 66.4% yesterday.