The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday voted unanimously to keep the federal funds rate unchanged. Overall, the FOMC signaled it has made a dovish turn away from the promised normalization of monetary policy which the Fed has promised will be implemented “some day” for a decade. Although the Fed began to slowly raise rates in late 2016 — after nearly a decade of near-zero rates — the target rate never returned to even three percent, and thus remains well below what would have been a more normal rate of the sort seen prior to the 2008 financial crisis.
Much of the Fed’s continued reluctance to upset the easy-money apple cart comes from growing concerns over the strength of the economy. Although job growth numbers have been high in recent years — and this has been assumed to be proof of a robust economy — other indicators point toward less strength. Workforce participation numbers, wage growth, net worth numbers, auto-loan delinquencies and other indicators suggest many Americans are in a more precarious position than headlines might suggest.
The Fed’s refusal to follow through on raising rates, however, has highlighted this economic weakness, and today’s front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal reads: “Growth Fears to Keep Fed on Hold”
Abandoning Plans to Reduce the Balance Sheet
For similar reasons, the Fed has also signaled it won’t be doing much about it’s enormous balance sheet which ballooned to over four trillion dollars in the wake of the financial crisis. Faced with enormous amounts of unwanted assets such as mortgage-backed securities, the Fed began buying up these assets both to prop up — and bail out — banks and to produce an artificially high price for debt of all sort.
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