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Fed Note - Reading the Fed's Tea Leaves

Fed Note - Reading the Fed's Tea Leaves

Guest Post - Thursday, January 29, 2015

The January FOMC meeting ended without incident, and without major change in strategy or language, as expected. There are four new FOMC voting members this year, but this didn't change the overall tone (no dissenters this time). In the formal release, they upgraded language for economic activity as expanding from a 'moderate' to now 'solid' pace, and job gains from 'solid' to 'strong.' The decline in energy prices was noted as a positive for household purchasing power. The 'considerable time' language for a low rate regime was removed, while the 'patient' approach was retained.

Investor focus continues to be on when the current zero rate regime will end, which looks to be mid- to later-2015, based on how economic data looks between now and then.

For curiosity's sake, it's sometimes interesting to take a look at the Fed futures markets for a view on where participants expect rates to fall in coming months. For the January and March meetings, there was a 0% chance of a rate hike priced in (maybe not entirely surprising, but a 0% chance of anything is a little bit surprising). A Fed Funds rate of 0.25% remains the highest probability through much of the year, when the chances of a 0.50% rate finally surpass it. At that point 0.75% is priced in at a 1-in-5 chance, but becomes the highest probability in January 2016. When condensing this down, the chances of rates increasing have lowered in magnitude and timelines have been pushed out during the past few months.

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