5 Takeaways from the December FOMC Statement

Forex traders, huddle up! Now that the Fed has announced its last monetary policy decision for the year, what’s next for the U.S. dollar? Here are the main points from the FOMC statement that you should know about.

1. Fed retained the “considerable time” phrase

Everyone and his momma had been waiting to see if the Fed would drop the “considerable time” wording when it comes to discussing how long interest rates would remain unchanged even after easing has ended. As it turned out, Fed Chairperson Yellen and her gang of policymakers still retained the phrase in echoing its previous statement, which hinges mostly on inflation expectations.

“It likely will be appropriate to maintain the 0% to .25% target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time following the end of its asset purchase program in October, especially if projected inflation continues to run below the Committee’s 2% longer-run goal, and provided that longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored,” the press release indicated.

2. Hawkish hints added?

But before you start thinking that there was nothing new to the latest FOMC statement, y’all should know that there were a few hawkish remarks added. In particular, the release showed that the Fed can be patient in beginning to normalize the stance of monetary policy. In other words, yes, the Fed is already starting to consider making policy adjustments!

As always, Yellen was quick to add her cautious comments in saying that the path of normalization is likely to be gradual and dependent on how economic conditions evolve. “If we do see faster progress toward our objectives than we currently expect then it is possible that the process of normalization would occur sooner than we now anticipated, and of course the converse is also true,” she added during the press conference.

3. Downgraded inflation forecasts, upgraded employment estimates

Thanks to the recent slide in oil prices, the Fed decided to lower its inflation forecasts from the 1.5%-1.7% estimate range announced in September to just 1.2%-1.3% for this year. They also downgraded their inflation projections for next year while retaining their forecast range for 2016 and 2017.

As for employment, the Fed acknowledged the strong improvements in hiring and shared a brighter outlook for the jobs sector. The upper range for the jobless rate this year was lowered from 6.1% to 5.85% while the forecast range for 2015 was reduced from 5.2%-5.7% to just 5.0%-5.5%.

4. Three dissenters: two hawks, one dove

Not all Fed officials agreed with the economic outlook and forward guidance though, as committee members Fisher, Plosser, and Kocherlakota dissented. Dallas Fed President Fisher insisted that rate hikes should be made sooner rather than later while Philly Fed President Plosser also had a hawkish bias in saying that monetary policy should be adjusted to reflect the recent progress in the U.S. economy.

On the other hand, Minneapolis Fed President Kocherlakota argued that the Fed needs to do more in order to boost inflation to the central bank’s 2% target. For Fed head Yellen though, these conflicting views are normal, especially since they are on the brink of making huge policy decisions.

5. Positive reaction from the Greenback and U.S. equities

At the end of the day, the Greenback and U.S. equities reacted positively to the announcement, as dollar bulls rejoiced on the idea that the Fed is considering tightening while U.S. companies took comfort in the fact that FOMC members are still staying cautious.

In fact, the S&P chalked up its best performance in over a year, as the index jumped 2% during the New York trading session and capped off a three-day losing streak. The DJIA marked a 1.7% gain for the day while the VIX, an indicator of market uncertainty, plunged 18%.

fomc usd forex

The Greenback also staged a pretty strong rally after the event, advancing against all of its major forex counterparts. Do you think this is a sign that the dollar is set to extend its rallies until next year?

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  • ForExchange

    Hi Forex Gump,

    I really liked the article especially that you included VIX, S&P and DJIA into it; these are not often enough mentioned in the blogs.

    It is interesting thought that both equities and forex pairs reacted positive. I say this because equities are rising on low itnerest rates while forex pairs rise on high interest rates. So I think there was a contradiction a little bit.

    We have talked a couple of times lately about the possibility of overbought USD conditions. Looking at the chart I think it is confirmed again. After such a statement there should have been a strong follow through and USD is losing against many currencies today.

    How do you see it?

    FE

    • Thanks for the positive feedback! Yep I did try to be more comprehensive with this article since it’s the last FOMC statement for the year. It seems that the prospect of Fed tightening might be met with caution among US equities (tighter credit, expensive business investment) and could actually spark risk aversion, which would still wind up positive for the dollar. The upcoming release of the FOMC minutes should shed more light on what’s in store for the Fed and the dollar this year so let’s see how it goes.

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