Fed Rate Cuts Aren’t Happening Anytime Soon
Feb 01, 2024
In a surprising turn of events, the Federal Reserve has signalled a departure from the anticipated Fed rate cuts in March, according to statements made by Fed Chair Jay Powell. After holding interest rates at a 23-year high, the central bank has opted for a cautious approach amid developing economic conditions.
Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell Dispels Speculations of Rate Cuts
The recent two-day meeting marked the fourth consecutive month where the Federal Open Market Committee unanimously reached the consensus to maintain the benchmark Federal funds rate between 5.25% and 5.5%. Contrary to earlier expectations of a rate cut, Powell asserted that it is not the “base case” for the Fed to cut rates in 2024, or at least in March, crushing market speculations.
The Fed’s decision comes against persistent concerns about inflation, which remains above the central bank’s 2% target despite showing signs of easing. Powell acknowledged the progress made in inflation control but emphasised the need for “greater confidence” before considering the Fed rate decrease.
The central bank is treading carefully, aiming for a peaceful balance to avoid endangering the progress against inflation while preventing an adverse economic impact. Powell stated that they are trying to identify a position that makes them really confident about inflation getting back down to 2%. This will enable them to begin the process of dialling back the restrictive level of rates.
Despite inflation showing signs of weakening, the committee remains watchful, particularly scrutinising employment data for January. The unexpected strength in the labour market throughout 2023, with the addition of 2.7 million jobs, has contributed to the Fed’s cautious optimism.
How Has The Stock Market Responded?
Powell’s remarks have led to a shift in market sentiment, with the S&P 500 slipping 1.6% and the Nasdaq Composite falling 2.2%. Traders, who had previously priced in a 60% probability of a rate cut in March, revised their forecast to 37% following Powell’s comments.
Analysts on Wall Street have varying opinions on the Fed’s stance. Chris Zaccarelli, Chief Investment Officer at Independent Advisor Alliance, believes that the Fed’s commitment to a prolonged higher rate is positive for the market. However, Shana Sissel, Founder and CEO of Banrion Capital Management, cautions that a rate cut in March is unlikely without a significant economic disruption.
The Fed’s decision has also impacted various sectors, with tech stocks experiencing a notable decline. Google-parent Alphabet and Microsoft witnessed drops of 7.4% and 2.7%, respectively, contributing to the broader market downturn.
In summary, the Fed rate cuts are likely postponed for a while, but market watchers still expect the Fed to cut rates in 2024. Powell’s emphasis on sustained conviction in inflation decline suggests that the central bank is prioritising a balanced and measured approach to overcome the challenging economic situation.
Now adjusting to this new attitude, the market awaits further economic indicators and the Fed’s announcement on interest rates in the next rate-setting meeting in March for further insights into the forthcoming course of annual percentage rates. The anticipation around when the will Feds drop interest rates remains high.