The Federal Reserve maintained its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday in a range of 5.25%-5.50%–as the financial markets expected.
But the central bank pushed back more strongly on than financial marks hoped on a March 20 schedule for the first cut in rates. “The Committee does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2%,” the Fed said in its policy statement.Fed chair Jerome Powell pushed back even moe strongly in his Wednesday press conference pushed back: A march cut is “probably not the most likely case or what we’d call the base case,” he said. “I don’t think it’s likely the Committee will reach a level of confidence by the time of the March meeting to identify March as the time to [cut rates].”
The Fed did tweak the language in its statement to take interest rate increases off the table. The Fed had, in prior statements, made reference to the potential need for “any additional policy firming” should inflation not continue moving towards its goal.
On Wednesday, the Fed referred to “any adjustments” it may need to make to its interest rate policy in the future.
Before the Fed announcement, the CME FedWatch Tool suggested a roughly 55% chance that the Fed would begin lowering interest rates in March. After Powell’s press conference odds of a March cut to rates fell to 36%.
The stock market didn’t exactly cheer the news. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 1.61% on the day and the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 0.82%. The NASDAQ Composite and the NASDAQ 100 moved lower by 2.23% and 1.94%, respectively. The small-cap Russell 2000 dropped 2.45%
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell as bond prices rose to 3.91%, down 12 basis points on the day.