Federal Reserve policy makers left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, even as they refined and tweaked their domestic economic assessment, and visibly eased concerns about the external economic and financial environment.
Here are four things to know about the announcement:
- Of critical importance to markets is that a decision to raise interest rates for the first time in almost 10 years is now more of a “live” possibility at the Fed’s next policy meeting, in December. In reasserting this policy flexibility and making it explicit, the central bank refrained from providing specifics about the elements that would drive the decision.
- The Fed's message conveyed greater unity among its policy making officials. Only one member of the Federal Open Market Committee — Jeffrey Lacker, the president of the Richmond Fed, dissented. The near unanimity was an important accomplishment by Chair Janet Yellen, especially given the range of views expressed in the weeks leading up to the meeting, including by the usually united governors.
- Many of those in the markets who had grown comfortable with the idea that the Fed would delay a hike until next year are now rushing to adjust. The result will be higher interest rates, especially for shorter maturity Treasury bills, and a stronger dollar.
- The Fed statement does very little, if anything, to help shift the market away from an obsession with the timing of the first rate hike and toward a focus on the bigger picture: what is likely to be the “loosest tightening” in Fed history, particularly when it comes to the irregular pace of the hikes and the ending point of the rate-increase campaign. Unfortunately, markets will now obsess about the next Fed meeting, devoting far more attention than the event strictly deserves. As a results, in the weeks leading up to the gathering, each new release of fresh economic data — and there are many on the calendar, including two jobs reports — will be a catalyst for the return of higher market volatility.
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To contact the author of this story: Mohamed A. El-Erian at [email protected]
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