Talking Numbers

Here’s why the Fed will taper in December: Top economist

Here's why the Fed will taper in December: Top economist

The markets are keeping an eye on Friday's release of the November jobs data. The reason for the added attention is that it could signal whether the Federal Reserve Bank will taper its $85 billion monthly bond-buying stimulus program known as "quantitative easing" ("QE").

Joe LaVorgna, Chief US Economist at Deutsche Bank, believes non-farm payroll increases for the month of November will be strong enough for the Fed to begin tapering in December.

"We think the report will be decent, something around 185,000 a month," says LaVorgna. "It will be a little less than the year-to-date average gain, which has been closer to 190,000."

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Yet while that's less than October's 204,000, LaVorgna thinks it will ultimately be revised higher.

"We've observed that over the past few years, employment has tended to be revised up by roughly 50,000 a month," says LaVorgna. "If we get 185,000 on Friday, with upward revisions around 50,000, that number is really over 200,000. That's been the trend over the last three months – slightly over 200,000. So, I would say if we get our forecast, it's a pretty decent report."

And, with that kind of a number, the Fed could start tapering.

"The September employment report, which was weak, took the taper off," says LaVorgna. "I'm of the view that the October data, which was certainly better than expected, put the taper back on. If we get something along the lines of our forecast, I would say the Fed tapers."

However, though the labor force participation rate is at its lowest levels since 1978, the Fed may still see a lower unemployment rate (which can also drop if more people become discouraged from seeking work) as reason enough to taper, according to LaVorgna. After all, a tapering still means the Fed will continue quantitative easing, just not as high as $85 billion per month.

"We're just talking about easing off the accelerator just a little bit," notes LaVorgna. "I think just in terms of tightening, we need much more labor market improvement than we've got. But, from reading the [Fed's meeting] minutes, my sense is that the Fed really wants to get out of this QE as soon as they can. And, if they get some data that surprise to the upside, that will be the excuse to do so."

(Watch: Is the Fed trying to 'fool' the bond market?)

While some are convinced that Fed chair nominee Janet Yellen will even want to increase the amount of QE, LaVorgna thinks she may take a slightly more hawkish approach. It may not be out of inclination so much as political necessity because changes at the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the body that conducts QE operations.

"There are two open seats; when Bernanke leaves, there'll be three," says LaVorgna. "The [two] presidents that are coming on [to the Federal Open Market committee] are very hawkish: [Philadelphia Fed President Charles] Plosser and [Dallas Fed President Richard] Fisher. So, she has to govern the committee a little bit more from the center. That makes her a little less dovish than people think."

To see the rest of LaVorgna's take on what the jobs report will mean for QE, watch the video above.

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