Traders bet U.S. hiring slowdown will speed Fed rate cuts

(Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is just about done being patient.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is pictured in Washington, DC, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File Photo

That was the view of traders in short-term interest rate futures Friday, after a government report showed U.S. employers sharply slowed hiring in May.

Traders, already anticipating a Fed interest-rate cut in July, now see a 65% chance the Fed will cut interest rates two more times this year, based on prices in fed funds futures contracts.

That would bring the policy rate down to between 1.5% and 1.75%, undoing most of the tightening the central bank undertaken last year as the U.S. economy strengthened.

The Labor Department report showed 75,000 new jobs created last month, less than half the monthly average this year, a “shocking” number said Mark Grant, chief global strategist at B. Riley FBR Inc.

With a cooling labor market exacerbating mounting worries that escalating trade tensions with Mexico and China will slow U.S. economic growth, “today’s report certainly supports the case for the Fed to cut interest rates sooner rather than later,” said Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial Services in Troy, Michigan.

The U.S. central bank raised interest rates four times last year. Policymakers have since signaled they are on hold for the rest of 2019, saying they will be patient in assessing economic data.

Only one Fed policymaker, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, has said outright in recent weeks that he feels the Fed may soon need to cut rates.

Other policymakers have said they are watching carefully for signs the economy is slowing, but have stopped short of signaling their patience is wearing thin.

The Fed next meets June 18-19 and starting next week policymakers will observe their regular pre-meeting moratorium on public speaking while they huddle with staff to analyze the data and debate their next move.

Reporting by Ann Saphir with reporting by Lucia Mutikani, Sinead Carew, Sruthi Shankar; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Bill Trott