Saturday, November 18, 2017
Business

Federal Reserve unlikely to change interest rates

RECOMMENDED READING


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.

Comments
Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops

As economists predicted, the tough hit that Florida jobs took from Hurricane Irma was not long-lived. The state added 125,300 jobs in October, almost breaking even from the 127,400 jobs it lost in September. According to state figures released Friday...
Published: 11/17/17
Apple will postpone release of  HomePod

Apple will postpone release of HomePod

The Washington PostApple said Friday that it’s pushing back its plans for a Siri-powered smart speaker until sometime early next year.The HomePod speaker was announced in June, with an initial launch date set for December. Apple said that its smart s...
Published: 11/17/17
HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

HSN, Good Housekeeping pick five contest finalists

ST. PETERSBURG — Good Housekeeping and St. Petersburg-based HSN have chosen five finalists for their entrepreneur competition. The partners are searching for a novel item to promote as endorsed by the Good Housekeeping Seal, denoting reliability and ...
Published: 11/17/17
Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? Disconnected we falter but there’s a plan to fix that

How are we doing?That was the Big Question posed more than once this past week in Tampa Bay. First, the Tampa Bay Partnership and USF debuted in-depth and new ways to measure Tampa Bay across a wide range of indicators to gauge whether we are gaining...
Published: 11/17/17
Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

Tesla’s latest creation: An electric big rig that can travel 500 miles on a single charge

The main course was expected: a pair of sleek silver Tesla semi-trucks that get 500 miles per charge, go from zero to 60 mph in five seconds and — if the hype is to be believed — promise to single-handedly transform the commercial trucking industry.B...
Published: 11/17/17
We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

We ask Tampa Bay startup leaders how best to advance entrepreneurial ecosystem

What one thing could be added to the Tampa Bay startup community to help it grow and prosper?The Tampa Bay Times reached out to these leading area entrepreneurs and startup experts for answers.RELATED COVERAGE: Trigaux: State of Tampa Bay startups? D...
Published: 11/17/17
Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Before you hit the mall: here are some key holiday shopping hours

Plotting a shopping strategy for the holiday weekend? Here’s a look at holiday store opening hours for some major retailers:Thanksgiving8 a.m.: Kmart1 p.m.: JCPenney4 p.m.: GameStop5 p.m.: Best Buy, Macy’s, Toys "R" Us, Kohl’s6 p.m.: Old Navy, Target...
Published: 11/17/17
Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

Electric, autonomous vehicles featured at Tampa auto show

TAMPA — The two biggest trends in the automotive space are ones you’ve likely heard of: electric vehicles and autonomous cars. Both will feature prominently at the Tampa Bay International Auto Show today through Sunday. The event at the ...
Published: 11/17/17
Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

Developer changes approach as downtown Largo project lags in financing

LARGO — Driving down West Bay Drive, you may notice some changes to downtown Largo.A new 29-unit apartment complex on Ridge Road stands finished and ready for residents. South of the complex, land that was formerly home to a community of rundown cott...
Published: 11/17/17
Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Want to travel solo? Local enthusiasts share stories, tips for holidays trips

Stephanie Maisonneuve visited the walled city of Cartagena, a port city off the Caribbean coast of Colombia. She rode horseback down the city’s cobbled streets clucking past flower-filled balconies and massive, wooden arched doors. The travel enthusi...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17