The Federal Reserve’s monetary policy announcement on Wednesday will likely be a non-event.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention.
If nothing else, this is the Fed’s last chance to prep markets for a December rate hike, which is required for the Fed to stick to chair Janet Yellen’s comments, first made in July, that sometime in 2015 it would be appropriate for the Fed to raise rates.
But since Yellen first made those comments, a lot has changed.
The Fed’s policy-setting committee (the Federal Open Markets Committee) is expected to announce at the end of its two-day meeting on Wednesday that again, it is leaving its benchmark rate unchanged at 0%-0.25%.
Yet, here we are. After a dovish Fed statement in September, and weak employment reports, virtually no one is betting that the Fed will raise rates in October.
Also, this week’s meeting has been largely considered out of the picture because there is no scheduled press conference, and so Fed chair Janet Yellen would not have a chance to explain a rate hike.
The December meeting, therefore, is likely to become the Fed’s last chance to raise rates this year.
Deutsche Bank’s Joe LaVorgna wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday:
Expect the Fed’s communiqué to be dovish. This means the statement should strike a more cautious tone relative to September, when policymakers stated that data since July suggest “that economic activity is expanding at a moderate pace”. We do not see how the Fed can keep this statement given the fact that the economy likely grew under 2% last quarter, and growth prospects for the current quarter are dimming in light of the sharp slowdown in the index of leading economic indicators.
The Fed’s statement is likely to be tweaked to reflect the weak jobs reports for August and September, after the prior statement said labour market “continued to improve”.
Still, the Fed could acknowledge progress in other areas of the economy.
“We would view such an outcome as indicating that, despite the weaker-than-expected recent data, the leadership’s baseline for liftoff remains December,” wrote Goldman’s David Mericle in a client note last Thursday.
Little has changed on the international front, which the Fed said that it’s watching closely in its last statement.
But inflation data has improved a bit soft, in Morgan Stanley’s view, and is still a long way from the Fed’s 2% target.
Overall, not much has changed in the economy since the Fed’s last meeting.