FED expected to raise interest rates for the second time in 10 years
Fed expected to raise interest rates but won’t tell market what it wants to hear
The markets want to hear whether the Trump economy could jolt the Fed into a faster pace of interest rate hikes, but there’s little chance the Fed will send that message Wednesday, when it is expected to raise interest rates for the second time in 10 years.
Fed watchers say the Fed is unlikely to tip its hand or tell a different story than it already has for next year, though it may give a nod to a better economy based on recent data and the low unemployment rate at 4.6 percent in November. The markets have been widely expecting the Fed to raise the Fed funds target rate by a quarter point, the first rate hike in a year.
The Fed also is expected to release its economic and interest rate forecasts at 2 p.m., when it releases its statement. At 2:30 p.m., Fed Chair Janet Yellen speaks to the press.
The Fed is unlikely to point to President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to cut taxes or ramp up fiscal spending, because it’s unclear how much of those plans will be implemented.
“I think too much is unknown. They’re not going to involve themselves in that. They’re going to do what they can do based on the economic evidence at hand,” said Jim Caron, fixed income portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management.
Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, the two-year yield, the most sensitive to Fed rate hikes, edged up to 1.17 percent Tuesday, its highest level in six years. The 10-year yield, however, was little changed at 2.47 percent.
“We do believe the market is getting a little ahead of itself. The flattening of the yield curve seems to suggest we’re prepping for a hawkish Fed, but it’s difficult to assume that a Fed that’s been so historically cautious and has taken such a wait-and-see approach … is going to suddenly turn very aggressively hawkish when the president-elect hasn’t even been sworn in yet,” said Aaron Kohli, interest rate strategist, BMO.
The Fed interest rate forecasts are presented on a chart known as the “dot plot,” and it currently points to two rate hikes next year, but economists and analysts surveyed by CNBC see 2.5 rate hikes in 2017.
Caron said Yellen has signaled that the Fed may be willing to let the economy heat up some more so it can continue hiking at a very slow pace. That may come out in her comments again, or show up in the “dot plot.”
Respondents to the CNBC Fed survey were mostly positive on Trump’s economic policies. Eighty-eight percent say they will increase growth somewhat, and 68 percent believe they will increase jobs. But 93 percent say his policies are also likely to increase inflation and 94 percent say they will increase the deficit.
The respondents also said they believe the market, which has been rising since the election, is getting ahead of itself.
The Fed meets as the Dow edges closer to 20,000. If it gets there, it would be its second 1,000 point milestone since Nov. 22. The Dow rose 114 points to 19,911 Tuesday, its seventh straight record high and its 16th since the election. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 also closed at new highs. The S&P rose 14 points to 2,271.
“Obviously we’ve had a big run up in the S&P 500. If things go well next year, I could see 10 to 15 percent, but we have to be coming out of the earnings recession, and the tax cuts and lower regulations have to be moving along,” said Wharton finance professor Jeremy Siegel. “My feeling is the most important things are lower taxes and regulations. For the market, the fiscal stimulus is an extra frosting that might be good. There’s the question of 4.6 percent unemployment. Will the Fed have to step on the brakes more? That’s more of a concern than the debt in the near term.”
There are a few important economic reports Wednesday, including November retail sales, at 8:30 a.m. ET, and industrial production, at 9:15 a.m. There is also PPI at 8:30 a.m. and business inventories at 10 a.m.