Baku. 28 April. REPORT.AZ/ The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged, moving the focus to the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting on June 14-15.
Report informs, the latest FOMC statement is little changed from the last one and provides no strong clue about the likely decision at the June meeting. The next indication of Fed intentions will come with the release in three weeks of the minutes for this meeting.
At this point, commentary by Fed officials is still suggesting two rate increases this year. That is down from a suggestion of four hikes not so long ago. For the remainder of the year, will there be two, one or zero increases in the short-term interest rates by the Fed?
As always, Fed officials will be following releases of economic data with special attention to labor-market numbers. These include numbers on jobs created, new unemployment claims, the unemployment rate and wages. At this moment, labor numbers are looking good overall and support an increase in June.
Manufacturing numbers are mixed. The ISM Purchasers Managers Index is above 50 but well below its peak in 2015. Industrial production declined in March for the second month in a row. These numbers likely reflect a weak global economy and the lingering effects of a strong dollar. They signal caution and a reason to hold off on a rate hike.
The strongest hawkish argument for returning to "normal" interest rates remains the cumulative effects of prolonged, near-zero interest rates. Rates this low divert investment from producing real output to financial engineering: carry trades, stock buybacks, M&A activity, etc. That distorts the allocation of capital and the composition of output. Very low interest rates also create financial bubbles that will burst when rates finally do move back up.
The effective federal-funds rate has flat-lined at around 36-37 basis points, within its target range of 25 to 50 basis points. The volume of federal funds bought and sold is greatly reduced, however, because of the large volume of excess reserves. Additionally, according to the New York Fed, most activity in the market is arbitrage being executed between GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprises) and banks that has no influence on other interest rates.
The Fed counted on arbitrage to move the federal-funds rate up and then other market interest rates.