Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the Federal Reserve is set to announce a decision on interest rates after tomorrow’s meeting of its Open Market Committee. And you also know that the Fed is widely expected to raise its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points to a range of 1.00% to 1.25%. How widely exactly? Well, the Fed Funds Futures market has priced in a 99.6% chance of an interest rate increase on June 14.
One argument I’ve heard from that tiny minority that doesn’t think a rate increase is in the cards tomorrow is that the summer promises so much uncertainty–investigations into Russia’s ties to President Donald Trump’s campaign and criminal investigations into some Trump associates, continued efforts to repeal and replaced Obamacare, long-awaited plans for tax cuts, the on/off infrastructure package, and a battle in Congress over a budget for fiscal 2018 and over raising the debt ceiling so Treasury can continue to pay the country’s bills–that the Fed will hold off on increasing rates this month.
I’d turn that argument on its head: all that uncertainty later in the summer is another reason for why the Fed will raise rates tomorrow. With a June increase under its belt, the U.S. central bank can sit back and see what unfolds this summer on all these fronts–as well as on such issues as the possibility that the Conservative government will fall in the United Kingdom, that the U.S. economy will continue to amble along, and that the recent sell-off in technology shares might signal a wider market retreat.
The Fed will release new projections on economic growth, unemployment, and inflation after the meeting.
Fed chair Janet Yellen’s press conference will be closely scrutinized for any hints on when the Fed might start to reduce the size of its balance sheet. Most economists forecast that this process will start by the end of the year with very modest decreases as the Fed decides to avoid buying new Treasuries to replace those that have matured. But there’s a huge difference, from the market’s point of view, in September versus December.
As you might expect ahead of the Open Market Committee meeting, the markets have slipped into neutral as they round the bend into the afternoon session. The NASDAQ Composite, for example, was up 0.52% at 6207.65 as of 12:15 p.m. New York time. The index, looking to recover from down days on Friday and Monday, had traded as high as 6223.07 near the open at 9:45 a.m. The index had been as low as 6185.26 at 10:55 a.m.