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Federal Reserve updates including rates, news and forecasts

March 18, 2015

| MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA

This was not your standard stay-the-course announcement from the Fed. While no policy changes were made as a result of the Federal Open Market Committee meeting that ended today -- indeed, the Fed all but promised there would be no changes at the next meeting either -- the Fed may have sharpened the focus on when it will finally raise interest rates.

Key wording changes put a target on June's meeting

Particularly when the Fed has had no policy changes to announce, statements following its meetings tend to have a certain sameness to them -- indeed, some of the language has been identical from one meeting to the next. However, this time there were some surprises.

Not only did the Fed announce that it was not raising interest rates at this meeting, but it took the unusual step of stating that a rate increase at the next meeting (which is in April) is unlikely as well. Normally, the Fed uses fuzzier language than that, shying away from committing to what it will or won't do at any particular future meeting. This is not because the Fed likes being coy. Rather, by shying away from specific commitments the Fed retains the greatest latitude to adapt policy to changing conditions.

In a sense, downplaying the possibility of a rate hike in April can be seen as an attempt to alleviate the usual market jitters that lead up to a Fed meeting. However, if the Fed took some pressure off of April's meeting, it put something of an investor target on the following meeting in June.

This is not simply because the Fed's commitment to current rate levels did not extend beyond the April meeting. Another significant wording change in today's statement involved the Fed's monitoring of inflation. One reason the Fed has given for keeping interest rates low is that inflation is running below its target rate of 2 percent. However, while reiterating this in today's statement, the Fed also explained that it might raise rates when it "is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term."

This suggests that the Fed might not wait for inflation to reach 2 percent, but might raise rates if it believes inflation is headed back in that direction. In particular, this puts added focus on oil prices, which have been a leading cause of the recent bout of deflation. It also puts further attention on the Fed's June meeting.

The waiting game

Don't expect to see an immediate impact on bank rates from today's Fed meeting, but since they are clearly entertaining the possibility of a rate hike as early as midyear, this could push savings account rates higher in the second half of this year.

The bad news for consumers is that mortgage rates might move higher even sooner. In fact, if the Fed is right about inflation firming up, mortgage lenders will probably not wait for the Fed to start raising their rates.

About the Federal Reserve

The Federal Reserve serves as the central bank of the United States. It was founded in 1913 by Congress for the purpose of strengthening the nation’s financial and monetary stability. Today, the Fed serves several duties in the nation’s economy.

These roles include regulating financial institutions, seeking to foster prosperity in the financial market, providing services to financial institutions, and influencing credit and monetary conditions for the purpose of a stable economy.

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meets several times each year and steers many key parts of Federal Reserve policy, including guiding the target range of the federal funds rate. The committee consists of 12 members.

Federal Reserve policy options

Options the Federal Reserve has for manipulating the economy include:

  • Altering the federal funds rate target
  • Altering the discount rate and its spread from the federal funds rate
  • Making open-market purchases of mortgages securities and Treasury bonds
  • Revising the language in the Fed's official statement to extend the period of time that interest rates are anticipated to be low
  • Increasing the money supply

Federal Reserve Links

The Federal Reserve Board

Members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Speeches and Testimony by Federal Reserve Board Members

Statistics: Releases and Historical Data

Federal Reserve Bank Chicago

Federal Reserve Bank New York

Historical interest rate changes

Previous Federal Reserve Updates

Latest Fed statement omits important detail

Fed changes its language, but not its policy

Fed's concerns remain with low inflation -- not low rates

A slow turn in Fed policy

Fed cheers quickening growth and inflation

Brightening economic signals fail to move Fed

The Fed announces another lose-lose for consumers

Is Janet Yellen really a hawk?

Fed forges ahead with tapering

Fed tapering: a win for banks, but not consumers

Fed moves predictably through enigmatic economy

Steady as she goes: Fed maintains its course

Fed remains mum on tapering

Like the economy, the Fed is still treading water

4 questions the Fed statement didn't answer

Is the Fed hinting at its exit strategy?

Fed meeting overshadowed by GDP disappointment

Fed ignores fiscal cliff, conducts business as usual

Fed plays the waiting game

More of the same medicine from the Fed

Fed meeting brings no miracle cure from Dr. Bernanke

The Fed's latest bet: I'll have another

Federal Reserve update: April 2012

Federal Reserve update: March 2012

Federal Reserve update: January 2012

Federal Reserve update: December 2011

Federal Reserve update: November 2011

Federal Reserve update: September 2011

Your responses to ‘Federal Reserve updates including rates, news and forecasts’

Showing 7 comments | Add your comment
Tom

24 May 2013 at 8:16 am

If all your income is in a FDIC account at a bank because you are not stock market savvy and you aren’t earning anything on interest then you can’t spend and recoup so you stagnate. Having to use your savings up leaves you with nothing, hello medicaid and public assistance.

josephine budka

11 April 2013 at 2:57 pm

I see the stock market and the real estate improving every day Why do we see these ridiculous rates our IRA and CD's Will the rates be improving soon or do we have to put our money into stock market.

Wayne

26 April 2012 at 9:20 am

What about earning some interest on my savings? Retirement looms ... maybe ... Help!

glenn smith

20 March 2012 at 1:34 pm

If people think that rates are going to go up, they will step up purchases of houses. This is what Obama wants: a housing upturn. As long as the Fed says rates will stay low until 2014 we will have no movement in housing and other investment. People will fear that they will miss the "low" in housing prices so they will buy now - if they fear that rates are going to go up!

Home Buyer

2 October 2011 at 10:28 pm

Thanks so much for helping make this info available. I'm thinking about buying a home but I think I'm gonna wait.

Gregory Matthew

1 June 2011 at 4:37 am

whoah this blog is excellent i really like studying your posts. Stay up the good work! You recognize, many individuals are looking round for this info, you can help them greatly.

Antique Clock

1 June 2011 at 3:07 am

Yeah, the Federal wanted to raise the discount rate to at least 1.25% because of many reasons. This has always been a huge debate and desire of others. Best wishes, Rocky

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