The Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee will publish its latest statement at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is expected to leave its benchmark rate unchanged in a range of 0.25% to 0.50%.
With virtually no expectations for a rate increase, and no press conference or economic projections, it could be one of the most low-key Fed events we’ve seen in a while.
Since the statement is all we’re getting, focus will be squarely on the Fed’s wording, and on who on the committee disagrees with the consensus.
Earlier in the year, the Fed made special note of global financial markets, stressing how developments abroad could impact its actions and the US economy.
“Given the relative improvement seen abroad (particularly China) and in U.S. financial conditions since the March meeting, we believe there is scope to reintroduce a more balanced assessment on risk to the outlook,” said Wells Fargo’s Sam Bullard in a client note.
RBC’s Tom Porcelli will be watching for whether the FOMC reinserts its “balance of risks” language. In the past, this has signified whether the Fed thinks the economy has more going for it or less in its favour, based on their forecasts.
Porcelli said in a note that if the Fed wants to signal a June rate hike, it would need to say the risks are “nearly balanced.”
But considering how dovish the Fed was in March, Neil Dutta at Renaissance Macro does not think the Fed will say this.
He wrote, “Inserting that sort of language into the statement would be unnecessary, in my view. Two year yields are pretty much where they were post March FOMC and stocks are up somewhat. Why would Fed want to stop this by sounding hawkish?”
Fed chair Janet Yellen has stressed that risks to the US economy are asymmetric because rates were near zero for so long. This means if the economy improves and inflation turns higher, the Fed has plenty room to tighten monetary policy and raise rates. But in the opposite scenario, rates can’t be cut that much lower — hence the asymmetry.
The Fed Funds Futures market, which bets on future rate changes, is showing no chance of a rate hike on Wednesday, and just a 22% chance of one in June.
Even if the Fed is bent on raising rates in June, inflation has not quite caught up to its 2% target.
“The most likely reason the FOMC would hold off on raising the fed funds rate in June is low inflation,” said PNC chief economist Stuart Hoffman.
But with oil prices gaining some footing and the dollar a bit weaker, inflation should pick up over the rest of the year, Hoffman said.
Year-to-date, the data has pinned the consensus first-quarter growth forecast at a soft 0.6%. We’ll get the advance estimate on Thursday — after the FOMC meeting.
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