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In her prepared remarks to Congress on Tuesday, Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen both played down expectations of a March rate rise while also noting that it would be “unwise” to delay tightening monetary policy too long.
Markets, however perceived her remarks as hawkish, with US Treasuries selling-off and the US dollar rising. And though economists think she has left options open for March they don’t expect a move till June.
Paul Ashworth, economist at Capital Economics, said that while Ms Yellen left March on the table, he expects the next rate rise will come in June. He said:
Fed Chair Janet Yellen at least kept the possibility of a March rate hike alive in today’s Congressional testimony, but she offered no real hints that such a move was actually coming and we still think the FOMC will wait until June.
…But Yellen also noted that there was considerable uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook and ‘among the sources of uncertainty are possible changes in US fiscal and other policies’. Under those circumstances, we expect the Fed to wait for more clarity on the size and timing of the proposed fiscal stimulus.
Ian Sheperdson at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said he expects the next move in May or June as the Fed awaits more clarity on Mr Trump’s policies.
No surprises in Chair Yellen’s testimony, though we expected her to be a bit more blunt on the question of fiscal easing, which she has previously said the economy doesn’t need right now. Instead, she merely said that she hoped any easing would be “aimed at improving productivity”, but “it is not my intention to opine on specific tax or spending proposals.”
…On rates, we think May or June are more likely than March for the next hike, but much depends on the details of the President’s upcoming fiscal proposals and the reaction in Congress, which will tell us how likely it is that his plans will be implemented, and when.
Mark Hamrick, analyst at Bankrate, said he thinks the “chances of an actual immediate rate hike are seen as fairly low”. He said:
Despite the stock market’s baked-in expectations that the Trump administration will deliver on programs aimed at boosting economic growth, Chair Yellen is sticking to the notion that the central bank will have to see what policies are actually enacted and what impacts they have on the economy. As she put it in prepared remarks, “it is too early to know what policy changes will be put in place or how their economic effects will unfold.”