- Israel-Hamas conflict
- Dollar strength
- ECB pauses
October has been a significant month for the world with the resurging conflict between Israel and Hamas. Alongside the devastating human impact, the conflict is also placing focus on micro-economic factors outside of the region. The World Bank voiced its concerns over oil prices earlier this week, speculating that the price per barrel could reach record highs of $150 if the conflict continued. In context, the price per barrel currently sits at $83, falling from a high of $93 in September.
When it comes to currencies, the conflict has fuelled the dollar strength trend we've seen through the summer and into the autumn. As a safe haven currency, political uncertainty tends to make the dollar perform better as investors seek its relative stability.
It's not just the rest of the world that's impacted the dollar, however. A slew of positive data has come out of the US over the last month, with higher-than-expected strong economic growth reflecting the positivity the country has been seeing. As such, USD is now on track for its third annual gain, its longest run since 2016.
October also saw the election of Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson as the new speaker of the US House of Representatives. Johnson has taken responsibility for the enquiry into President Joe Biden, started by the recently forced-out Kevin McCarthy. He said it was 'very likely' the President had committed impeachable offences in an interview with Fox News on Monday and that "we're going to follow the truth wherever it leads."
Johnson's election has also seemed to cool concerns of a US government shutdown this year. Goldman Sachs removed the possibility from its forecasts for the rest of the year, citing geopolitical risks and the election of a speaker. The possibility does continue to be feature in risk forecasts for 2024, however.
On this side of the Atlantic, the European Central Bank was the first of the three significant policymakers to make its interest rate decision last week, with the Federal Reserve and Bank of England to follow today and tomorrow, respectively. The ECB held rates steady for the first time in ten meetings and since summer 2022, in its longest run of hikes that now see the central currency's borrowing rate at its highest ever recorded.
The decision was poignant, which ECB President Christine Lagarde acknowledged in her speech, saying: "Sometimes inaction is action, and a decision to hold is actually meaningful". The ECB made it clear in its rhetoric that this doesn't necessarily mean the end for rate hikes, however. Lagarde went on to say that the battle to tame inflation wasn't over, continuing: "We are not done yet. And we need to really bring inflation back to 2% in the medium term because that's our target and that's the price-stability mission that we have."
- Federal Reserve Meeting
- Bank of England Meeting
Federal Reserve Meeting – Wednesday 1st November
Although markets have priced in another pause in rate hikes with almost certainty, the Fed still has a lot to think about.
Data coming out of the United States is painting a solid picture of the economy, with growth reaching 4.9% over the last quarter. However, inflation is still stubbornly above 2% (the latest reading was 3.7%). This is alongside the increasing energy prices on the brink of winter and a labour market that is only just showing signs of slowing after 33 months of back-to-back gains.
We'll be following the post-meeting press conference closely to see if the guidance from the Fed's Chairman Jerome Powell will shed any light on what to expect in the rate decisions to come.
Bank of England Meeting – Thursday 2nd November
Similarly, the Bank of England is expected to pause, too – despite an entirely different economic picture from the US. Conversely, the UK's growth data is showing it's only just stayed out of a technical recession over the last couple of months, posting figures of -0.5% and 0.2% that represented a very sluggish July and August. Inflation is still far higher than any other 'rich' nation and well above the 2% target, after it remained stagnant at 6.7% in September.
The Bank of England is also making its decision against a backdrop of growing concerns of recession and that the impact of the previous 14 rate hikes is yet to be felt.
Despite both economies contending with different challenges, it does appear the interest rate hiking cycle could likely be over for the foreseeable future. Market expectations currently forecast interest rate cuts to start in the second half of 2024.
What will be interesting is the commentary that comes from both central banks, which will give us an understanding of their expectations for both the US and UK economies over the coming months.
During November, we'll also be keeping a careful eye on the regular inflation and GDP metrics for a more rounded interpretation. These will become increasingly important in the short term, with GDP probably taking the spotlight as inflation comes down more convincingly.
Looking ahead to 2024:
There are some key landmarks and questions we have as we look ahead to 2024. We'll be looking into these in more depth during our webinar and over the course of the next few months.
- UK Election 2024 - likely to be held in Q3 or Q4
- US Election 2024 - 5th November
- Israel-Hamas conflict - What will be the long-lasting effects in the region and across the globe?
- China's economy – With its economic data languishing, property prices dropping, and youth unemployment incredibly high, what could that mean for China's place in the world economy in 2024 and beyond?
This commentary does not constitute financial advice and all quoted rates are sourced from Bloomberg.