The September FOMC meeting provided Chair Yellen one of the ultimate achievements in central banking: boredom in the midst of momentousness. In this, it served as a fitting capstone for her (first or only?) tenure as Fed Chair, which has been consumed with tiptoeing away from extraordinary policy measures as much as Ben Bernanke’s tenure was consumed with escalating and extending them. There were some interesting revelations about the Committee’s evolving views on the outlook for the economy and future rate hikes — as expected, the December meeting was very much in focus — but otherwise the materials published and the press conference were successfully dull. Bad news for financial journalists, but good news for the world economy.
What They Did
How & Why They Did It
No mystery here: it’s all about the December meeting, when another rate hike is in the cross hairs. With overall growth and the labor market looking good right now, it’s all about the inflation data. It would probably take another leg down in core inflation to push out the next rate hike. This is especially true since the growth and employment data may be muddied by the effects of the hurricane season. Gas prices won’t help either, but the Fed will look past them to focus on core inflation.
Financial conditions will also be worth keeping track of. Part of why the Fed is now shrinking its balance sheet is because it has not seen its prior rate hikes filter out into broader financial conditions. As the Fed effectively releases more bonds out into the open market (mechanically its just a reduction in the amount of reinvestments), that should relieve downward pressure on interest rates and give their rate hikes more bite. If they don’t, talk of a second “conundrum period” may pick up. As it is, 30-year and 2-year Treasury yields are near their narrowest gap since the end of 2007. History doesn’t repeat, but look out for the rhymes.
As iCIMS’ former chief economist, Josh Wright led a team of data scientists in analyzing emerging trends in the U.S. labor market. With publications ranging from academic journals to national media, Wright previously served as a U.S. economist with Bloomberg L.P., and was a staff researcher at the Federal Reserve.