Friday, 23 March, 2018

US Federal Reserve leaves rates unchanged

Federal Reserve to meet for last rate decision on Yellen’s watch US Federal Reserve leaves rates unchanged
Nellie Chapman | 03 February, 2018, 00:28

Going back to last year's projections and expectations, the market and investors can expect three more interest rate hike this year as long as there aren't any other market conundrums and significant market movements this year. Jerome Powell will take over the chair from February 3 and be sworn on two days later.

Jerome Powell, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, will replace Yellen next week.

One of Yellen's major advantages was an increase in policy transparency, together with her ability to clearly convey the Monetary Policy Committee's plans for coming quarters and months to the markets.

"I think the Fed will end up moving rates up either three or four times, and it will depend on how the data comes in", said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at California State University, Channel Islands.

Wednesday's Fed statement also contained a few tweaks which could influence the market's view on the timing and the number of future rate hikes.

Referring to stable employment growth, household spending and capital investment, the Fed said it expects the economy to expand at a moderate pace and the labor market will remain strong in 2018.

Gold prices edged higher on Wednesday, as investors looked ahead to the outcome of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting, the last under the leadership of Janet Yellen before she hands the chairmanship over to Jerome Powell.

The Fed last raised rates at its final meeting of 2017, in December.

Fed policymakers have been encouraged in recent months as the economy picked up speed and the unemployment rate fell to a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. The March policy meeting will also be the first time that Powell is scheduled to hold a news conference, something the leader of the Fed does four times a year. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury was at 2.73 percent, compared to 2.93 percent for New Zealand's 10-year government bond. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labour market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and global developments.

Given the fact that Fed is unlikely to raise the rate, experts estimate the probability of this step at three percent. If the Fed raises rates, it would be the sixth consecutive quarterly tightening of monetary policy.

The current target range for the federal funds rate is 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. With the USA government injecting added fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts and higher federal spending, and asset prices arguably starting to look overvalued, some analysts predict the Fed under Mr Powell will have to assert itself more aggressively.

Yellen's new boss David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center, wrote a blog today welcoming her to the new role.