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Fed Minutes: The Wait and See Approach

The meeting in March kept rates steady and indicated that 2019 was a year for patience. Trump and the financial markets took this as the Fed was ready to start cutting rates again. Since then the Fed has made no indications of rate cuts for 2019, suggesting that rates will be held steady for the rest of 2019.

Members of the Federal Reserve have explained that it is too early to start discussing rate cuts just yet, while the market had starting pricing in rate cuts for the end of 2019. The labor market is strong but some of the economic data appears weak. The minutes indicate that the Fed will halt the balance sheet runoff come September and may even look to stabilize reserves when that process is halted.

March Meeting Recap

During the meeting in March, the FOMC kept rates steady, said it would halt the runoff of the balance sheet and forecasted no hikes for the rest of 2019. The Trump administration and the Financial markets have been quick to assume that the Federal Reserve will be lowering interest rates. Financial Markets have started to price in a rate cut at the end of this year while the FOMC still suggest a hiking bias.

Prior to the minutes six FOMC participants projected higher interest rates while eleven see no change for 2019. Neel Kashkari and James Bullard both reiterated in March’s meeting that it is too early to discuss cutting rates just yet. The Fed has lowered its forecast for economic growth as they see less business investment and less household spending.

Fed Minutes Recap

“Several participants noted that their views of the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate could shift in either direction based on incoming data,” according to the minutes. Policy makers indicated that the US labor market is strong while expressing concerns about the overall health of the US economy. The minutes also point out the oversized debt of US companies.

There was a lot of discussion regarding the Fed’s balance sheet and what to do when the reduction program is over, pointing out that it plans to end its balance sheet reduction by September. Some officials have indicated that the Fed may need to stabilize the reserves when it finishes the balance sheet runoff. Stabilizing the reserves would mean resuming the purchase of US Treasury securities.

Gold and Dollar Price Action

Following the minutes, we saw dollar up gold down as traders get no indication of any rate cuts for 2019. The market was pricing in a cut for the end of 2019, but the Fed’s indication of no change shows they are more optimistic about the economic outlook. The positive or better said less negative economic outlook gave way to dollar strength and gold weakness. Immediately following the minutes gold is down a few dollars while the US dollar is up.