Make us your home page
Instagram

Federal Reserve unlikely to change interest rates

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is all but sure to leave interest rates alone when it ends a policy meeting Wednesday at a time of steady gains for the U.S. economy but also heightened uncertainty surrounding the new Trump administration.

The Fed will likely signal that it wants further time to monitor the progress of the economy and that it still envisions a gradual pace of rate increases ahead.

"I don't look for the Fed to do anything this week," said Sung Won Sohn, an economics professor at the Martin Smith School of Business at California State University. "They are starting to get their ducks in a row for further rate hikes, but it will be too soon to pull the trigger."

The Fed's two-day meeting will end with a policy statement that will be studied for any signals of its outlook or intentions. At the moment, most economists foresee no rate increase even at the Fed's next meeting in March, especially given the unknowns about how President Donald Trump's ambitious agenda will fare or whether his drive to cancel or rewrite trade deals will slow the economy or unsettle investors.

It's always possible that the central bank could surprise Fed watchers Wednesday by sending a signal that a rate hike is coming soon. In Fed parlance, that signal could be as slight as changing language in its statement to say "near-term risks to the economic outlook appear in balance," instead of "roughly in balance," the phrase it has been using.

The statement will not be accompanied by updates to the Fed's economic forecasts or by a news conference with Chair Janet Yellen, both of which occur four times a year .

Last month, the Fed modestly raised its benchmark short-term rate for the first time since December 2015, when it had raised it after keeping the rate at a record low near zero for seven years. The Fed had driven down its key rate to help rescue the banking system and energize the economy after the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession.

When it raised rates last month, the Fed indicated that it expected to do so three more times in 2017. Yet confusion and a lack of details over what exactly Trump's stimulus program will look like, whether he will succeed in getting it through Congress and what impact it might have on the economy have muddied the outlook.

And while Trump's tax and spending plans are raising hopes for faster growth, his proposals to impose tariffs on such countries as China and Mexico to correct trade imbalances could slow the economy if U.S. trading partners retaliate and collectively impede the flow of imports and exports.

"The Fed is unlikely to signal intentions to raise rates as early as March given the heightened uncertainty about the timing and scope of fiscal and protectionist policies," said Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.

Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Markit, predicts that the economy will grow a modest 2 percent to 2.5 percent this year, before accelerating next year to 2.6 percent to 2.7 percent on the assumption that Trump's policy proposals will have begun to take full effect by then.

The outlook for both years would mark an improvement over the economy's lackluster growth of 1.6 percent in 2016, its weakest performance since 2011.

Even though economic growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, was underwhelming last year, the job market appears close to full health. Hiring was consistently solid in 2016, and the unemployment rate ended the year at 4.7 percent, just below the 4.8 percent level the Fed has identified as representing full employment.

And inflation, by the Fed's preferred measure, rose 1.6 percent in the 12 months that ended in December, moving closer to the Fed's 2 percent goal.

Federal Reserve unlikely to change interest rates 01/31/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2017 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trumps travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, the New York Times reports, citing officials familiar with the plans.

    President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans said Friday. The new restrictions, aimed at preventing security threats from entering the United States, could go into effect Sunday after the conclusion of a 90-day policy review undertaken as part of the administration's original travel ban. Though the restrictions would differ for each country, people living in the targeted nations could be prevented from traveling to the United States or could face increased scrutiny as they seek to obtain a visa. [Associated Press]
  2. In dollars: How valuable are Florida's university football programs?

    Business

    The University of Florida football program is valued in a new study at $682 million, making it the most valuable university team in the state but still worth far less than several college programs topping $1 billion. Four years ago, UF's program was valued at just under $600 million.

    The University of Florida football program is valued at  $682 million, making it the most valuable by far in the Sunshine State. Pictured are UF cheerleaders leading the crowd in a Gator cheer on Clearwater Beach last December during the Outback Bowl Beach Day on Clearwater Beach. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. After 22 years, it's last call for beloved Ybor venue New World Brewery

    Music & Concerts

    YBOR CITY — Steve Bird spreads his tools across a patio table. He has awnings to unbolt and paraphernalia to unpry, from the busted Bop City neon by the stage to the Simpsons "El Duffo o Muerte" mural in the courtyard. He'll uproot a fountain and dismantle a roof and attempt to keep his bar intact. The …

    Various decor and memorabilia fill the walls and shelves at New World Brewery in Ybor City.
Long time music venue and hangout New World Brewery in Ybor City will be closing it's doors and moving locations. Patrons enjoy one of the last events before New World Brewery changes its location to Busch Blvd in Tampa.  [Photo Luis Santana | Times]
  4. Florida bought more Pasta Passes from Olive Garden than almost any other state

    Food & Dining

    Floridians would like their bowls of pasta to never, ever end.

    Florida was the No. 2 state with the largest number of Olive Garden Pasta Pass purchases, an unlimited pasta pass for $100. Photo courtesy Olive Garden.
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
[Times]