FOMC Snoozefest

Unlike New Year’s Eve and Katy Perry, the release of the FOMC meeting minutes produced very little fireworks. The meeting minutes, which outlined the details of the Fed‘s interest rate decision last December 14, merely confirmed what everyone had already known – the Federal Reserve had no plans of cutting QE2 short because economic recovery still lacked momentum.

The Fed indicated that while the economy was generally getting better, the improvements weren’t enough to warrant any changes in its 600 billion USD stimulus program. The inflation rate is still below the 2% bank target and the unemployment rate is still stubbornly high.

For now, the Fed will take their good ol’ wait-and-see approach and make adjustments to the program depending on “economic and financial developments.”

Take note though, that Fed officials were looking at data that was released BEFORE December 14, which means that didn’t have their hands on all those lovely reports we got last week.

Shall we take a look at the latest economic data from the U.S?

Contrary to what you would expect from an economy so troubled that it has warranted a second round of economic easing, the reports rolled out in the past week have been surprisingly awesome.

For one, pending home sales delivered an upside surprise when it surpassed forecasts for a 1.8% rise in November to post a 3.5% increase.

Similarly, factory orders picked up brilliantly, thanks to a strong demand for capital equipment. Instead of the 0.1% decline that most had expected, November recorded a respectable 0.7% surge.

And lest we forget, the manufacturing sector has been showing signs of stability and continued expansion. Just last month, the ISM manufacturing PMI printed higher from 56.6 to 57.0, suggesting that the recovery in the sector is picking up speed.

Of course, all these positive figures could possibly translate into more jobs and in the near future. Not a bad way to start the year, I would say. Who knows, maybe our beloved FOMC members will be a tad more optimistic next month!

In any case, the statement largely turned out to be a non-event, as no surprise statements were made and dollar pairs didn’t break out strongly in any direction. It seems that the markets have pretty much priced in QE2, as the dollar has actually been on the rise since the program kicked in late last year. If the U.S. continues to post positive economic reports in the coming months, we may see the dollar climb up the charts in 2011 like Natalie Portman’s Google rank after the release of Black Swan.

In the meantime, Big Ben and his merry band won’t be making any changes to the plan and they’re gonna sit back, drink a Bud, and wait. As they said in the statement, any changes will be contingent on the progress of the economic recovery over the next few months. Besides, there is normally a lag after such stimulus measures are injected in the economy, so it may be prudent to take a wait-and-see-approach.

I dare say though, if employment continues to struggle, could we begin to hear whispers of QE3?