In the new minutes, Janet Yellen and her friends at the Fed did lose the ‘considerable time’ phrase, in the sense that it had been part of a sentence that said that ‘it will likely be appropriate to maintain the zero to one-quarter percent target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time following the end of its asset purchase program.’
In this statement, they say that they ‘can be patient’ about the timing of interest rate hikes. At first blush, it looks as though they are losing the considerable time phrase in favor of the word patient.
However, in the very next sentence, they write, ‘the committee sees this guidance as consistent with its previous statement that it will likely be appropriate to maintain the zero to one-quarter percent target range for the federal funds rate for a considerable time.’
So, did they lose the phrase? Sort of. It’s not in its original context, but then they go on to say that the new phrase basically has the same meaning. To critics of ‘considerable time,’ they can say that they deemphasized it and to those who wanted to keep it, they can wink and say it’s still there.
Statement parsing aside, though, the release is good news because essentially they are saying that they are still on schedule for a mid-summer interest rate hike (what they refer to as normalization), and markets cheered.
The market rally could definitely be interpreted as a vote of confidence that the Fed, and more importantly, the economy, is moving in the right direction.
Investors seem happy that interest rates will increase from zero (cash holders and short-term bond investors especially), but they may also be happy that the Fed seems to be saying that the pace of interest rate hikes could be modest.
The Fed releases member forecasts along with their written guidance, and 15 of the 17 members say that they believe short-term rates will be higher in 2015, with the mediate estimate at 1.125 percent.
In the next year, the median forecast for short-term rates is 2.5 percent and 3.625 percent for 2017, signaling a gradual increase.
Of course, as Janet Yellen said today, and others have said many times before, future policy action will be data dependent.
Just as the consensus opinion did not foresee the dramatic fall in 10-year bond yields or oil prices this year, it’s impossible to say what economic circumstances we will be facing even one year from today.