The Federal Reserve will keep rates at near zero percent for the foreseeable future. Also, a few members feel worried about a second wave of the coronavirus crashing the markets later this year. These are according to the minutes of the June 9-10 meeting.
Federal Open Market Committee members voted to keep the benchmark short-term borrowing rate in a range of 0%-0.25%. They also said that, until the economy “had weathered recent events,” they would keep it there. Without providing specifics, the notes also mention that “a number” of members believe there is a high probability of additional “waves of outbreaks” of the coronavirus.
This worry over additional outbreak waves and the economic damage it could bring led the FOMC committee to downgrade their economic outlook from the April meeting. The said meeting had predicted a more benign baseline forecast.
The members also indicated that they will begin providing the markets with stronger guidance about future interest rate moves. However, Fed watchers don’t expect the committee to begin providing this guidance any earlier than the September meeting.
“In particular, most participants commented that the Committee should communicate a more explicit form of forward guidance for the path of the federal funds rate and provide more clarity regarding purchases of Treasury securities and agency [mortgage-backed securities] as more information about the trajectory of the economy becomes available,” the minutes said.
Milestones and Metrics
The committee also discussed what milestones they will use to determine an appropriate time to start raising interest rates. When they did, the metrics proposed has split the committee.
In 2012 for example, the Fed said it would keep rates at zero until the unemployment rate fell below 6.5%. Alternatively, they also said it would keep zero rates until the inflation goes above 2.5%.
In June’s meeting, a “number” of members said any interest rate increases should be tied to the Fed’s 2% inflation target. Meanwhile, a “couple” favored using the unemployment rate. A “few” members suggested the committee set a specific date.
The FOMC also released its expectations for GDP over the next few years. The median GDP projection for 2020 was a contraction of 6.5%. A 5% increase in 2021 and a 3.5% in 2022 will follow this. However, they acknowledged “that there remained an extraordinary amount of uncertainty and considerable risks to the economic outlook.”
Trump on Powell
Meanwhile, there’s a bit of good news for Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell. It appears he has slowly won over his most vocal critic, President Trump.
During an interview on Fox Business News, Trump said Powell has “stepped up to the plate” and he’s happy with Powell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for the work they’ve done to help the economy recover.
“I would say that I was not happy with him at the beginning, and I’m getting more and more happy with him, I think he’s stepped up to the plate. He’s done a good job, he’s had to liquify a little bit, let us liquify, put out the money that you needed, and I would say over the last period of 6 months he’s really stepped up to the plate.
“I can tell you I’m very happy with his performance, and Steve Mnuchin, I think they’ve both done a very good job, they’re working together very closely.”