Secret Unscheduled FOMC Meeting

Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen held a closed FOMC meeting today, under expedited procedures to review the discount rate charged by the Federal Reserve with the Fed governors. Following this surprise expedited meeting, Janet Yellen with meet with President Obama to discuss the economy and Wall Street reform. It is the first time since November 2014 that the Fed chair has met with the president alone. The meeting was closed to the news media.

Don’t expect any rate hikes coming out of any of these meetings. Some economists last week cut their tracking estimates for growth in first-quarter gross domestic product to near zero, following a 1.4 percent gain in the last quarter of 2015. That would mark the weakest six months in about three years.

I am sure one of the issues discussed is the fact that the banking sector is in big trouble – the global slowdown has affected the quality of assets, margins for banks and business growth prospects in quite the negative direction, especially after two central banks made a turn towards negative interest rates. The global economy, with the EU and China/Japan in particular, is slowing significantly.

Earnings Season Begins

Furthermore, earnings at S&P 500 companies are now upon us, with Alcoa reporting after the close of the market on Monday that it beat on earnings but missed on revenues. The company announced that it laid off 600 people in the first quarter, and plans to let go of as many as 1,000 more people “given the current market environment.”

The S&P 500 earnings are expected to have fallen 7.7 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, which would mark four quarters in a row of declining earnings for the S&P 500 companies.

Meanwhile, the Fed has been unrelenting on its intent to drive down the value of the US dollar going into April 15th and once again the US dollar fell again today, helping oil price to rise 64 cents to $40.36 a barrel.

The greenback’s slide against the yen prompted a warning from Japan’s top government spokesman,Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who said recent currency moves were one-sided and speculative and that the government would take steps as needed.

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