In a speech on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell stated that he had a “neutral” outlook on rates. According to a CNBC article, he was quoted:
Interest rates are still low by historical standards, and they remain just below the broad range of estimates of the level that would be neutral for the economy — that is, neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.
But CNBC notes that, as recently as October, Powell’s was indicating that rates were “a long way from neutral.” Could the change in tone simply be public relations damage control?
It’s important to note that rates may still be “low” by historical standards, but only if you include 35+ years of interest rate history. However, if you look at just this century, rates are headed towards the highest levels since 2007 (see chart below). And keep in mind there’s a good chance that we’ll see one more rate hike in December, as the Fed has alluded to in their November meeting statement.
In response to Powell’s “neutral” language, the Dow Jones jumped 617 points. This represents its biggest one-day gain since this March, according to CNBC. Of course, the Dow has rebounded two other times since October 3, only to lose those gains each time.
Another strange part of Powell’s statement was the indication that the Fed’s “neutral” rates were “neither speeding up nor slowing down growth.” His analysis is odd, because CPI inflation has been on the rise for the last several years (see red arrow):
And yet, the Dow jump and Powell’s “neutral rate” statement oddities somehow aren’t the strangest items from Wednesday’s speech.
Seems the Fed Want to “Have It Both Ways”
The Fed issued a stark warning about a potential trifecta that could impact the economy. Their warning reads:
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…