As inflation grows, higher borrowing costs will just be the order of the day
have fluctuated amid payroll data that have bolstered speculation the economy is strong enough to weather higher interest rates. The crucial question now is how fast will US interest rates go up next year.
If you want to know where the stock market is headed for, keep your eyes glued to oil prices.
Although the price of crude doesn’t have much of a direct impact on Hong Kong’s economy and asset values, it does have a strong influence on borrowing costs. Sharp increases in interest rates next year could short-circuit the property boom and send the local stock market into a tailspin.
It’s widely expected that the US Federal Reserve (Fed) will raise interest rates at its policy meeting this week. The question is how fast will interest rates go up next year.
Because of the strong inflow of regional capital, Hong Kong may not need to raise local rates in tandem with the United States this time to defend the currency peg. But if US interest rates continue to surge as they are expected to in 2017, Hong Kong will have to follow suit.
The cost of borrowing in the US is seen as being pushed up by inflation which, in turn, is driven by a number of forces, including higher oil prices and an expanding US budget deficit. A little inflation is good for the US economy as it can help stimulate consumer spending. But, it can be expected that the US Fed will shift to a much more hawkish monetary policy than before to keep prices in check.
Following the decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut production, non-OPEC producers said last Saturday they too had agreed to reduce output to boost prices. Sure enough, the benchmark Brent crude jumped more than 4 percent on Monday to $57.89 a barrel — the highest since July 2015.
Energy experts expect the price of crude to rise to between $60 and $70 a barrel next year even after taking into account the projected increase in supply from shale producers in the US. Meanwhile, oil demand in the US and on the Chinese mainland — the world’s two major oil consumers — is expected to climb as their respective economies continue to improve.
Inflation in the US could get another boost from the projected widening of the budget deficit resulting from higher spending on infrastructure projects to further stimulate economic growth. Such expectations have already been reflected in the sharp rise in bond yields in recent weeks.
As investors try to correctly gauge the impact of the latest developments on the market, they can be sure of at least one thing — the days of abnormally low borrowing costs are over.