New York: Many economists at Wall Street's biggest banks remain convinced the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates by June, even as the markets have been spooked by a five-year low in crude oil prices and wage growth remains weak.
Thirteen of 20 primary dealers, the banks that deal directly with the Fed, said in a Reuters poll on Friday they expect the first rate hike by June. All but three expect at least two rate hikes in 2015.
The US central bank last raised interest rates in 2006 and has held its target policy rate near zero since the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
The survey shows that Wall Street's top economists remain unmoved by ongoing weakness in wage growth and multi-year lows in oil prices.
On Friday, the Labor Department's December US employment report showed that while some 252,000 non-farm jobs were added to payrolls, average hourly earnings unexpectedly fell by 0.2 per cent.
The drop in wages continues the plodding growth in compensation that has been apparent since the 2007-2009 recession. Over the past year, earnings rose only 1.7 per cent, the smallest 12-month gain since October 2012.
Still, economists were mostly unfazed.
"Much of the focus on softer nominal wage growth belies the fact that real wage growth has accelerated to the quickest pace in over a year," said Derek Holt, head of capital markets economics research at Scotiabank.
The Labor Department said that November real average weekly wages - which factors in the increase in working hours - rose 0.9 per cent.
"While the weak nominal income growth could be seen as hindering consumer spending, the precipitous decline in headline inflation means that real income growth remains robust, and probably increased a solid 0.7 per cent last month," said Michael Feroli, economist at JPMorgan in New York, in a note.
Despite a 50 per cent decline in crude oil prices since June 2014, 12 of 16 dealers polled said they don't expect that the drop in oil prices alone to change the Fed's plan to wait until June to raise rates.
Trading in federal funds futures contracts suggests the market does not see the Fed raising rates this early. According to CME Fed Watch, expectations are not for a rate increase until September, and those odds were lowered following the jobs figures.
The median forecast of 21 dealers for the federal funds rate at the end of next year was 0.875 per cent, slightly lower than a December poll. The median forecast of Fed policymakers from December was for a rate of 1.13 per cent, according to the latest projections updated on December 17.
The median forecast for the federal funds rate at the end of 2016 was 2.25 per cent, down from a forecast of 2.5 per cent in December.
Copyright @ Thomson Reuters 2015