The Fed will start its two-day meeting today and, tomorrow at 6:00 pm GMT, we’ll see which policies Governor Powell and his team have decided on for the month of August.
Will we see as many fireworks as we did last month? Here are points you need to know about the event.
What happened last month?
As mentioned in the latest central bank roundup, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) raised its interest rates by 25 basis points as market players and their momma expected last June.
The Fed also slightly upgraded its growth forecasts for 2018, as well as its inflation projections for 2018 and 2019.
More importantly, the Fed also upgraded the projected path of the Fed Funds Rate to reflect the possibility of TWO more hikes in 2018, one more than what they had penciled in earlier this year.
All the hawkishness bumped up the Greenback across the board until trade war updates, profit-taking, and positioning ahead of the ECB statement eventually dragged it back down.
What are analysts expecting this time?
In a word, nothing.
Market players don’t expect the Fed to make any changes this time around. For starters, the central bank has only made policy changes on meetings with pre-scheduled pressers since it started raising its rates in 2015.And unlike its last meeting or the upcoming one in September, there won’t be a presser or new economic and policy projections to accompany the statement this week.
Note that there also haven’t been enough changes since last month’s meeting and Powell’s testimony two weeks ago to warrant more action from the Fed. Friday’s GDP report still pointed to “solid” economic activity while inflation is still around the Fed’s 2.0% target.
Instead, analysts will be keeping their eyes peeled for signs that the Fed is getting closer to a “neutral” rate where it won’t need to tighten further unless inflation accelerates.
We already saw signs of possible shift in the Fed’s policy direction when Powell scratched in “for now” when he talked about gradually raising rates.
He said that (emphasis mine):
“With a strong job market, inflation close to our objective, and the risks to the outlook roughly balanced, the [Federal Open Market Committee] believes that — for now — the best way forward is to keep gradually raising the federal funds rates…”
Don’t expect neon, flashing lights pointing to an end to tightening, however. For one thing, doing so would undo the Fed’s hard work in communicating a “gradual” pace of tightening.
Talking about the end of tightening also risks speculations that the Fed – which is supposed to be independent from politics – is bowing down to pressure from President Donald Trump to keep rates low.
Speaking of Trump, don’t expect to see clear biases on the POTUS’ tariffs either. We’ve already seen from Powell’s testimonies the lengths the Governor will go through to NOT comment on the issue directly.
Instead, expect the Fed to repeat its optimism over a strong economy and labor market and pepper them with concerns over inflation still slowing down in the foreseeable future.