What Rate Cuts Can Be Expected
The US Fed has not exactly been forthcoming in its rate cuts; rather, it lowered rates very reluctantly in 2007. It has given only what the currency markets have already priced in. The basic reason for their hesitation is the desire to contain inflation - the very same concern that weighs heavily on all other central banks in the world. The Fed wants to make certain inflation remains under control. Doing that has been more difficult because of the high energy prices coupled with the weaker dollar. Thankfully, indications of energy prices reaching $100 per barrel are no longer in circulation.
The market expects the Fed to further ease interest rates another 25 to 50bp lower; however, this is not the only option. They may want to further explore their other options, including the Term Auction Facility they introduced in December. But these options, including a cut in the discount rate, are limited especially since LIBOR rates have remained at high levels. Even as late as December, Treasuries posted one-day increases that were the highest seen in the last three years.
Who Else Might Make A Play
In the final two months of 2007, the crumbling markets were shored up by massive investments from sovereign funds. Temasek Holdings, owned by Singapore, invested $4.4 billion in Merrill Lynch; state-owned Abu Dhabi Investment Authority plowed $7.5 billion into Citigroup; and, China Investment Corporation invested $5 billion in Morgan Stanley. Sovereign wealth funds have been in existence since the mid-twentieth century. From an estimated $500 billion total size in 1990, these funds are now thought to be worth $3 trillion. The states of Norway, Singapore, the U. A. E. , Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and China have between them an estimated $2 trillion available for immediate spending. Given eight more years, these funds may have total capital of $12 trillion, continuously built up from their natural resources and foreign exchange reserves. Investments from sovereign wealth funds have - and probably will continue - to be significant factors in helping the US financial markets recover.
How the 2008 US Presidential Elections May Affect Financial Markets
The historical trend shows more bullishness for the US dollar when Republicans gain leadership than Democrats. Whether this trend will hold depends on how close the 2008 elections will turn out. The Stock Traders Almanac makes the general observation that election years show modestly positive growth in the US stock market. In the last five decades, election years have shown a 9.2% average gain in the Dow Jones index.
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