For Yellen, a September Fed surprise could close confidence gap

Mon Sep 19, 2016 5:14am EDT
 
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By Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Market volatility is low, U.S. census data shows income gains have reached the middle class, and workers are clawing back a larger share of national income. For now, at least, no international risk stands out and inflation may even be picking up.

If Fed Chair Janet Yellen wants to prove that policymakers are not being pulled along by investors who for years have second-guessed them, this week may offer a rare moment of calm to do so.

The Fed is divided enough ahead of its Sept. 20-21 rate meeting that a nudge from its most influential policymaker could make the difference, and even some investors have begun to argue it is time for the central bank to stop worrying so much about what markets expect.

"Let's get on with it already," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

"It will cause some challenges to the market but I think that is healthy in context of a normal business cycle," Arone said. "It will increase the cost of capital, and flush out some riskier assets in the short term. But that is probably the right thing to do."

A Reuters poll last week suggested it is a very long shot.

The poll showed the median probability of a rate rise provided by economists was about one-in-four and only 6 percent of those surveyed expected the Fed to act, with the majority expecting the Fed to wait until December.

Fed funds futures trading shows that investors are even more skeptical than that, and expect the Fed to stay put until February - more than a year after the central bank raised rates and signaled more would come this year and next.   Continued...

 
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference following the two-day Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) policy meeting in Washington, DC, U.S. on March 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo