Watch interest rates steer stocks forward

It does not take much to determine the future of the stock market, the direction of interest rates tells it all, well, almost, but profits cannot be ignored. The accompanying chart suggests that the Bank of Jamaica’s recent hikes in interest rates won’t last much longer, a fact that stock market investors need to ponder early in 2023.
While the Bank of Jamaica only recently pushed their Overnight rate to 7 percent, Interest rates on Treasury bills may have peaked as far back as April 2022, with the 182 days’ Treasury bill rate averaging 8.46 percent in the April auction and moderated slightly downwards since, an indication that the market determined rates were at or close to the peak.
Bank of Jamaica moved their overnight interest rates charged to banks from 0.50 percent in September 2021 to 7 percent in November last year, a measure implemented mainly to tame inflation. Inflation has cooled sharply from the high in 2021 and is on the way down. The foreign exchange market buoyancy resulted in some appreciation of the Jamaican dollar, while the NIR seems to have risen to record levels for an end of year close.
The attached chart shows investors tending to react belatedly in response to interest rate movements. Profit ultimately is the primary long term driver of stock values. If interest rates are falling and so are profits, stock prices are unlikely to increase in the short run, the reverse is true. It is, therefore, not surprising that many companies listed on the Junior Market that enjoyed a substantial increase in profits registered good gains in stock prices in 2022, with seven gaining between 100 percent and 312 percent and 8 gaining 50 to 99 percent even as the Junior Market index rose only 16.3 percent for the year, while 21 Main Market stocks gained between 2 and 82 percent for the year, following a 10.2 percent decline in the JSE Main Index and 8 percent for the All Jamaica Composite Index. In all, 22 stocks gained more than the market average. Although not spectacular, the movement in the market was vastly better than the increase in Treasury bill interest rates, which jumped 89 percent above the 4.33 percent rate at the end of December 2021.
Investors can look forward to a fall in rates in 2023 as inflation moderates substantially and falls within BOJ’s 4-6 percent target during 2023. That development will likely be more impactful for Junior Market stocks that will enjoy a higher profit increase than those in the Main Market.

BOJ pushes interest rate higher

Bank of Jamaica which increased the overnight rate over the past year by 550 basis points to 6 percent in August has pushed the rate to 6.5J percent in its latest decision.
According to the Central Bank, while “the key drivers of inflation and other economic indicators are trending in the right direction, conditions have not sufficiently solidified to ensure that inflation is sustainably on a downward path.”
“Bank of Jamaica is also concerned about the slow pace at which interest rates on local currency deposits and loans have responded to its policy signals. In a context where the Bank’s policy rate has increased by 500 basis points (bps) between end-September 2021 and end-July 2022, the weighted average deposit rate offered by deposit-taking institutions to the public has increased by only 37 bps.”
“ In addition, the pace of monetary tightening among Jamaica’s main trading partners has accelerated. On 21 September 2022, the Federal Reserve Board raised its interest rate target by 75 bps, 25 bps more than anticipated by the Bank. The Fed also changed its forward guidance to signal that interest rates could rise to 4.4 percent by end-2022 and to 4.6 percent by end-2023, compared to its previous median projections of 3.4 percent and 3.8 percent, respectively. This more aggressive stance could result in US dollar assets becoming more attractive relative to those denominated in Jamaican dollars, which could cause capital outflows, prompting a faster pace of exchange rate depreciation and, consequently, a derailment of the Bank’s efforts to manage inflation.”

BOJ hikes interest rate higher to 5.50%

The Bank of Jamaica hikes its overnight rate once more by 0.50 percent to 5.50 percent following the latest meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC).
The decision the bank stated was “unanimously agreed to” by MPC who “also decided to continue pursuing other measures to contain Jamaican dollar liquidity expansion and maintain relative stability in the foreign exchange market.”
The Committee noted that “while inflation at May 2022 of 10.9 percent was lower than inflation at April 2022, core inflation remained elevated and headline inflation is likely to continue to breach the Bank’s target range over the next year.”
The MPC noted that its current decision reflects a cumulative increase in the policy rate of 500 bps since October 2021, which has taken the policy rate closer to the level that the Committee considers appropriate. The bank stated that “the measures are also aimed at reducing economic demand and, consequently, the ability of businesses to pass on price increases to consumers. These decisions are also expected to continue to support a relatively more stable foreign exchange market.”

BOJ interest rate folly

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Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) unwarrantedly, increased the policy interest rate, they offer to deposit-taking institutions on overnight placements with BOJ by 50 basis points to 5 percent per annum, effective 20 May 2022, with a view to continuing slaying inflation that is well past its peak from September last year.
According to a release from the BOJ, “Inflation at April 2022 of 11.8 percent was higher than the outturn at March 2022 and represented the ninth consecutive month that inflation has been above the Bank’s target range of 4 to 6 percent. While inflation is forecasted to rise further over the next two months, the Bank forecasts inflation to fall in the second half of the year, consistent with consensus forecast for a fall in commodity prices.”
The above misses the critical point, with inflation improving since October last year with an average rate of 6.8 percent, just over the BOJ target range. The central bankers fooled around for a major part of 2021 in defending the excessively low interest rates when inflation was getting out of hand. They are erroneously focused on crawling inflation over a twelve month period rather than seeing what was taking place under their feet currently.
They are now making the mistake in the opposite direction when inflation is in decline and close to their 4 to 6 percent band. Available data shows the worse of the inflation was between May and October last year, then running at an average rate of nearly 15 percent per annum, since then, it has been just under six percent per annum, with little help from BOJ as the tighter monetary policy started in late September is just about now likely to start having the effect.
The recently harsh hike in interest rates is not the tool really meant to tame inflation but one more in keeping with reducing demand for US dollars.
According to the Central Bank, “The measures are expected to cause interest rates on deposits and loans to rise further, making savings in Jamaican dollars more attractive relative to foreign currency assets and borrowing in Jamaican dollars more expensive. They are also expected to reduce the demand for foreign currency, leading to a relatively more stable exchange rate.

BOJ interest cuts overnight rate.

The measures are also expected to cause demand in the economy to fall and, consequently, limit the ability of businesses to pass on price increases to consumers.”
It is difficult to be driving a vehicle backward over a long distance to get to one’s destination, accordingly, BOJ should not be setting policy based on what inflation was in the past but on what is likely in the future. Past inflation hikes are irrelevant to future rates once the rates are tamed, as the data now shows. Accordingly, BOJ recent big jump in rates is a mistake and should have been implemented early last year and over several months. The last three rate increases amount to applying drastic medicine after the ailment is well on the way to being cured.
This publication has written in the past disagreeing with the excessively low rate and how it was reducing the value of savers’ money while starving pensioners and small savers of badly needed income. There always is a need for a balance, either way, BOJ has gone too far and far too late.

Bank of Jamaica inflation response worsened

Inflation in Jamaica is getting better, not worse, contrary to the recent statement by the Bank of Jamaica, to the contrary in justifying a steep hike in overnight deposit interest rates by 1.5 percent to 4 percent starting on Monday.

BOJ hikes overnight rate.

Yes, the point to point inflation rate moved up to 9.7 percent, giving the impression that inflation is getting out of hand, but that number does not tell the true story. The 4 percent interest rate will help savers get a more realistic rate on their savings.
The bank really had no significant new information that they did have when rates were raised between September and December, last year. If anything, the new information indicates clearly that inflation is moderating not worsening.
What are the facts? In January and February, last year inflation was negative 1.6 and 0.1 percent respectively and jumped to 1.1 percent in March while slipping to 0.5 percent in April, for a negative year to date inflation then, of 1.1 percent. Between May and September when BOJ moved rates up by 100 basis points inflation was the worse for the year at 1.32 percent per month or annualized 16 percent that is well up from 0.48 percent per month or 5.76 percent. The high rate of inflation suggests the bank should have moved earlier to raise rates than in September.
Inflation since the first interest rate move in September, is running at 0.6 percent per month or 7.2 percent per annum just slightly above the BOJ range of 4-6 percent. The average for the last three months is running at an average of 0.47 percent or 5.64 percent annualized, well below the 16 percent per annum for the period indicated above.
Negative inflation in January 2021 was due to a steep decline in the prices of vegetables and tubers a development that was not sustainable, as such the underlying inflation was more likely positive than negative as such the 0.6 percent increase in January this year is not out of line and is better than the December rate of 0.8 percent. The question to be answered is what can justify a sharp interest rate increase to tame much more moderate inflation over the past three months compared to when the rates were initially raised in September and on two other occasions last year by much smaller amounts that that starting on Monday?

Time for Byles to go

In the 1990s, the then government of Jamaica appointed a failed central banker in an African country as governor of Bank of Jamaica in combination with a failed Minster of Finance they collectively destroyed the Jamaican economy and the financial sector by maintaining stiflingly high interest rates that have set back this country for decades.  
Now that the country is recovering from those calamitous years, the country employed what is in effect a retired non practicing economist as head of the central bank. No major country in the world has placed such a person as head of their central bank.
In a letter to the Minister of Finance around April last year Byles advised the MOF why rates had to be kept at levels well below inflation. According, to the central bank that was to facilitate growth and any increase, would trim the growth level quite a bit.
In reality, GOJ was the major beneficiary of the low interest rates and lenders to banks were subsidizing the goverment by getting little interest on their money.
This publication had repeated disagreed with the BOJ policy of abnormally low interest rates as having disastrous consequences for the economy. The chickens are now rooting and the central bank is panicking with the latest measured knee-jerk 1.5 percent in its overnight rate to 4 percent.
Up to June last year Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) held the policy interest rate unchanged at 0.50 percent per annum. According to the Central Bank, the decisions taken then by Bank of Jamaica are aimed at ensuring that the annual increase in the prices of consumer goods and services remains within the Bank’s inflation target of 4 to 6 percent.
The decision to hold the policy rate unchanged was made by a unanimous vote by the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (The Committee/MPC). This decision was based on the MPC’s assessment that, despite recent increases in international commodity prices, the existing stance of monetary policy remains appropriate to support inflation within the target range over the next two years. The Bank’s accommodative monetary policy posture is also aimed at supporting a recovery in economic activity in Jamaica.
Something seems to have blinded the eyes of the MPC who met again in August but only move rates by a huge 100 basis point then and now 1.5 percent. All talk of growth has completely gone from the justification for keeping rates well below inflation.
The message seems clear, the central bankers and the MPC are clueless as to what they are dealing with.

Bank of Jamaica jacks up interest rate 1.5%

Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) jacks up its policy interest rate offered to deposit-taking institutions on overnight placements by 150 basis points to 4 percent per annum, effective 21 February 2022 and brings to four the number of increases implemented since September 2021.

BOJ interest cuts overnight rate.

According to a release from BOJ the bank also decided to pursue stronger measures to contain Jamaican dollar liquidity expansion and to maintain stability in the foreign exchange market. Finally, consistent with meeting its inflation target sustainably in the medium term, the MPC agreed to consider maintaining or expanding its suite of policy measures at subsequent policy meetings. This position is subject to inflation, inflation expectations and other macroeconomic data evolving as projected.
In general, monetary policy decisions taken by Bank of Jamaica are aimed at ensuring that the annual increase in the prices of consumer goods and services (i.e. inflation) remains within the Bank’s inflation target of 4 percent to 6 percent, the bank stated.

BOJ CD rates holding steady

Fresh from hiking their overnight policy rate by 0.50 percent to 2 percent, Bank of Jamaica latest CD offer produced an average yield of 4.34 percent, with the lowest bid coming in at 4 percent.
BOJ offered to sell $9.5 billion of CDs and attracted twice that amount at $18.24 billion. The highest rate payable by the central bank is 4.475 percent, with only 44 percent of the amount of the bid being successful.
The previous CD auction held on November 9 attracted $17 billion for the $12 billion offered and resulted in an average yield of 4.22 percent, with the highest successful bidder getting 91 percent of the amount they placed in the auction with an interest rate of 4.65 percent.

Overnight rate hiked again

The interest rate charged by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) to deposit-taking institutions on overnight fund placements was pushed by 50 basis points to 2 percent per annum, effective November 17.
The increase is the second move in two months and follows a one percentage point increase in September. According to the country’s central bank, “while not targeting any specific level of the exchange rate, they will continue to ensure that movements in the exchange rate do not threaten the inflation target.” Consistent with meeting its inflation target sustainably in the medium term, the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) agreed to consider further increases in the Bank’s policy rate and, by extension, raising rates to achieve real interest rates, from the current significant current negative rates and maintain or intensify the accompanying measures at subsequent policy meetings.
“The decision to further reduce the level of monetary policy accommodation was made unanimously by the MPC. This was based on the MPC’s assessment that this action was necessary to limit the second-round effects of recent shocks and to guide inflation back within the target range over the next two years,” BOJ states.
And BOJ went on to say, “this reduction in the level of monetary accommodation will cause market-based interest rates to rise further, which will make the returns on Jamaican dollar assets more attractive relative to foreign currency assets. It will also make saving in Jamaican dollars more attractive and borrowing in Jamaican dollars more expensive. These effects are intended to temper the demand for foreign currency and hence moderate the pace of depreciation in the exchange rate; and, generally, reduce demand in the economy and with it the ability of businesses to pass on price increases to consumers.”
”Inflation is projected to average 5.5 percent to 6.5 percent over the next two years. Inflation will continue to breach the upper limit of the Bank’s target range over the next 10 to 12 months at higher rates than were envisaged in the previous forecast and is projected to peak in the range of 8 to 9 percent over this period. The inflation forecast assumes, inter-alia, the continued transmission of higher international commodity and shipping prices to domestic processed food, food-related services and energy price inflation as well as a recovery in domestic demand.”

BOJ now paying over 4% on CDs

Interest rates rose to 4.17 percent in the latest Bank of Jamaica 30 day CD offering of 12 billion on Wednesday last week, up from 3.28 percent on Wednesday, October 6 and well over the new overnight rate of 1.5 percent.
Having settled at a low of just over 0.5 percent for the past two years, the latest rate marks a significant shift in a very short time frame, a development that investors should watch carefully.
At the recent auction, the central bank received 53 bids amounting to $14 billion for $12 billion on offer, 46 bids were successful up to 5.27 percent and came after BOJ increased their overnight rate to 1.5 percent. The total nominal outstanding amount for the 30-day CDs $46.5 billion, similar to the week before, but well above the $35.5 billion at the end of July.
At the same time, the Government of Jamaica Treasury bill auction on Wednesday, October 10, rates on the three tenors on offer ended with an average rate of 2.165 percent for the 90 day offer that attracted $2.246 billion for the $700 million on offer. The 181 days offer saw $1.974 billion chasing the $700 million offered and resulted in an average rate of 2.75 percent and the 273 days T-bill pulled in $1.865 billion for $800 million offered and resulted in an average rate of 3.69 percent.
The range for yields for full allotment is 1.45 percent to 2.85 percent for the 91 day T-Bill, 1.5 percent to 3.05 percent or the 182 days T-bill and 2.41 percent to 4.75 percent for the longest dated bill.
On Thursday, October 21, the central bank will auction $4.5 billion 365 days Certificate of deposit.