The proverbial ideological battle lines were drawn in the new Congress as the hearing season was in full swing this week.
The US Senate Banking Committee is the most relevant committee to traders in the Senate. It held its bi-annual monetary policy report hearing with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as the witness.
During his opening statement, Mike Crapo talked up the economy noting that the gross domestic product has grown by over 3% (it grew at a yearly average of only 2.1% under President Obama), the unemployment rate is at 4%, labor force participation is increasing, and wages are increasing, after being mostly stagnant for more than a decade.
Crapo is a Republican Senator from Idaho, and he is the chair of the Senate Banking Committee. The Ranking Member- or head of the minority- is Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from the State of Ohio. He took an entirely darker view of the economic outlook. He stated, “It’s been a great week for Wall Street.”
He stated that banks have reported record profits of $237.7 billion in 2018, a record of $1 trillion in stocks were bought back by executives, “conveniently boosting CEO compensation,” Brown said. “But that’s not enough for Wall Street,” He continued. “It continues to demand weaker rules, so big banks can take bigger and more dangerous risks.”
Prior to this hearing, the same committee held an “executive session” to consider numerous nominations.
The full title of the committee is the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee and considers all cabinet level posts in those categories; this includes the boards of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission.
On February 26, 2019, the committee considered the nominations of these individuals: Dr. Mark Anthony Calabria, of Virginia, to be Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency; Mr. Bimal Patel, of Georgia, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; Mr. Todd M. Harper, of Virginia, to be a Member of the National Credit Union Administration Board; The Honorable Rodney Hood, of North Carolina, to be a Member of the National Credit Union Administration Board; Dr. Dino Falaschetti, of Montana, to be Director, Office of Financial Research, U.S. Department of the Treasury; The Honorable Spencer Bachus III, of Alabama, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank; Ms. Judith DelZoppo Pryor, of Ohio, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank; Ms. Kimberly A. Reed, of West Virginia, to be President of the Export-Import Bank; Mr. Seth Appleton, of Missouri, to be an Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Mr. Robert Hunter Kurtz, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Later in the week, the Senate Banking Committee will hold another hearing entitled “Legislative Proposals for Capital Formation and Corporate Governance.”
The House Financial Services Committee is the committee most relevant to traders in the House and it is holding three hearings this week, including also hosting the Federal Reserve Chair on Wednesday February 27, 2019.
While the Senate has remained in Republican hands, the House is now controlled by Democrats; a scan of the hearings called this week reflects the change.
In early February, the committee held a hearing entitled, “Homeless in America: Examining the Crisis and Solutions to End Homelessness and another on banking services for cannabis related companies. Later this week the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on diversity trends in the financial services industry.