Wednesday marks the end of an era at the Fed.
For months, the Fed has been jawboning about raising interest rates in 2015.
June’s meeting, however, came and went without any action.
And yet despite a disappointing first quarter of the year for the US economy, Fed officials have remained insistent that after more than 6 years with interest rates at 0%, 2015 will be the year that changes.
At 2:00 pm ET on Wednesday, the Fed will announce its latest monetary policy statement. The Fed is not expected to raise rates from its current 0%-0.25% target range. But we will move closer to the Fed’s September meeting, widely viewed by the market as the first realistic date for the Fed to raise interest rates.
And so, how, then, does Wednesday’s meeting mark the end of a Fed era? Because after Wednesday, the Fed actually enters a period in which every meeting is “live.”
In speeches this year, Fed chair Janet Yellen has emphasised that every Fed meeting is “live,” meaning that the Federal Open Market Committee (the Fed committee that votes on monetary policy), considers a rate hike at every meeting.
But Fed meetings accompanied by scheduled press conferences — which leaves just the September and December meetings this year in play — have been targeted as the only realistic meetings at which the Fed could raise rates.
And this despite the Fed testing its emergency conference call system back in April, which many took as a sign the Fed wanted markets to know it really could raise rates at a non-press conference meeting.
Markets, for their part, have also seen through assertions that every meeting is “live,” and over the last year the number of months to the Fed’s first rate hike, according to data from Bloomberg, has drifted lower but remained right around the 6-month mark.
On Wednesday, this measure put the first hike 5 months out, implying a December move.
And so with Wednesday’s statement not accompanied by a press conference from Yellen, and markets expecting the statement to only be tweaked slightly, there isn’t much fanfare ahead of the statement. In short, any big changes — or the announcement of a conference call — would be a huge surprise.
But we’re certainly entering new territory with the Fed, particularly with markets expecting Thursday’s second quarter GDP report to show an economy that bounced back in the second quarter and a job market continuing to point towards improvement.
Between now and the September meeting, we’ll also get 2 monthly jobs reports, which could pave the way for Fed action in 2015 from a Fed that appears anxious to do, well, something.
What to expect on Wednesday
As for Wednesday, only cosmetic changes, really, are expected.
Ahead of the meeting, analysts at Deutsche Bank wrote that, “the Fed is in wait-and-see mode and will want to keep all options on the table going into the September meeting.”
Via Deutsche Bank, here’s a breakdown of how the firm thinks the Fed could tweak its statement later today.
At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Michael Hanson wrote that, like Deutsche Bank and other firms, he doesn’t expect any wholesale changes to the Fed statement, looking instead for, “a cautiously optimistic if noncommittal message.”
“This may be slightly more hawkish than current market expectations (which place the probability of a September hike in the vicinity of 40%),” Hanson wrote, “but not a strong enough signal to trigger a major repricing in our view.”
Analysts at Credit Suisse noted, however, that with Fed officials insisting on all meetings being “live,” there might not be a need for the Fed to majorly change its language in order to prepare markets for a rate hike.
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