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Fed Maintains Interest Rates as Yellen’s Tenure Winds Down

U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Yellen testifies on her nomination to be the next chairman of the Fed during a Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing in WashingtonJanet Yellen oversaw her final meeting of the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Wednesday afternoon, with the Committee holding fast on interest rates and revising their projections on expected inflation.

“Gains in employment, household spending, and business fixed investment have been solid, and the unemployment rate has stayed low,” read the FOMC statement. “On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have continued to run below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation have increased in recent months but remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.

As expected, the Fed left interest rates unchanged this time around, following the hike to a range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent during the December 2017 FOMC meeting. The vote to maintain the current benchmark interest rate was unanimous. The FOMC statement explained, “The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting strong labor market conditions and a sustained return to 2 percent inflation.” Analysts expect another rate hike to come in March, following the first FOMC meeting under the leadership of new Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

The FOMC statement did revise projections when it comes to inflation, however. “ The Committee expects that, with further gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong,” the FOMC statement says. “Inflation on a 12‑month basis is expected to move up this year and to stabilize around the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term.”

Powell is broadly expected to maintain a steady course for the Fed similar to Yellen’s. During his initial November 2017 confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Powell emphasized the importance of looking back over the various regulations and legislation instituted since the 2008 financial crisis and making sure it still makes sense. When asked by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) if he believed there were any regulations that needed to be stronger, Powell said, “Honestly, Senator, I think they’re tough enough.”

He also championed the notion of tailoring regulations to match the size and importance of the institution in question, with a decrease in intensity and stringency for smaller and regional banks. Powell said he was in favor of exempting banks worth less than $10 billion from the Volker Rule, and projected an eventual Fed balance sheet total of between $2.5 and $3 trillion within three to five years.

About Author: David Wharton


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