So much for “patient.”
Today after the meeting of the Open Market Committee on interest rates the Federal Reserve announced that it would leave benchmark interest rates at the current 2.25% to 2.50%.
But in its words the Fed delivered what the market hoped for–a clear move toward cutting interest rates at the July 31 meeting and then a second cut sometime in the remainder of 2019.
First, the Fed said the U.S. economy is growing at a “moderate” pace. That’s a significant downgrade from “solid” at the Fed’s last meeting.
Second, the Fed said it would take action “as appropriate” if the economy shows any more signs of decline.
And third, the Fed removed the word “patient” from its the statement. At his post-meeting press conference Fed chair Jerome Powell said “Many on the committee do see a strengthened case for cutting rates. News about trade has been an important driver of sentiment…We’re also looking at global growth.”
The vote to hold rates steady wasn’t unanimous. One Fed member voted to cut rates now. This was the first dissent of Powell’s term as Fed chair. The dot plot projections of future expectations released today show nearly half of Fed officials predicting interest rates will fall by the end of 2019. At the March meeting none of 17 Fed officials anticipated a cut this year. Seven of the 17 are now forecasting two rate cuts by the end of 2019.
Today’s rhetoric will make it very difficult for the Fed not to cut interest rates at the July 31 meeting. Yesterday the Fed Funds Futures market was pricing in a 13.6% chance of no action on interest rates at the July 31 Fed meeting, according to the CME FedWatch tool. Today the market is pricing in 0% chance that the Fed will leave interest rates at current levels at that meeting.
Going into today’s meeting, the Fed knew the financial markets were anticipating a rate cut in July and rather than talking back that expectation, the Fed gave the market every reason to believe that the interest rate cut it was anticipating would arrive at the July 31 meeting.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond fell to 2.03% today as bond prices moved up on the Fed news. The yield on the 2-year Treasury note fell to 1.75%.