On the same day that the US government reported an annualized contraction of 4.8% for the American economy in Q1, the Federal Reserve concluded their first two-day meeting since drastically slashing interest rates to near 0% and initiating a raft of monetary operations and support facilities aimed at helping America’s people and businesses weather the current crisis. Chairman Jerome Powell and that Fed’s FOMC, as was broadly expected, announced no new actions following the meeting but used their core communications channels to affirm the central bank’s commitment to ultra-low interest rates and an un-banded program of asset purchases in support of the economy and its eventual recovery.
- The FOMC announced a unanimous decision to hold short-term interest rates near 0% and continue its unrestricted bond-buying program.
- Rather than include additional forward guidance, the committee’s statement focused on recommitting to the necessary to support the US economy.
- Chairman Powell acknowledged the severity of the pandemic’s damage and threat to the economy in the medium term.
The FOMC voted unanimously to continue both the furious rate of bond purchases as well as maintain the policy of short-term interest rates targeted at 0.00% to 0.025% for the foreseeable future. This is fully in line with what the vast majority of economic analysts and observers anticipated from the Fed’s headline decisions.
Contrary to the hope of more hawkish investors and managers, the committee’s statement offered no additional forward guidance on the pace of asset purchases or benchmarks for adjusting current operations, and instead focused language of reaffirming the Fed’s will and ability to act as required. The Fed Funds Rate will remain near-to-zero until such a time as the FOMC is “confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.” Regarding the deep volume of asset purchases being conducted by the Fed, the committee promised the effort would continue “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning.”
Language was severe when discussing the current coronavirus pandemic and economic crisis. In the FOMC statement, the committee pointed to not only the damage already inflicted by the near-total shutdown of many part of the US economy in an effort to combat Covid-19, but also the “severe threat” that the pandemic posed to global and domestic economic outlooks through the medium term. In his following press conference, Chairman Powell also acknowledged that deep damage done to the labor market which will take some time to unwind, and likelihood that, even compared to this morning’s dour GDP estimated for Q1, the American economy is likely to endure an “unprecedented” contraction in Q2. Both of these concerns highlight the need of the Fed’s current extraordinary rate of support an intervention to continue.
And it may even increase, as Powell admitted to in his press conference, conducted remotely with reporters over video, saying that the Fed will stay ready to offer even more backing in order to support a “robust” recovery.
Powell says the economy will likely need more support from the Fed for the recovery to be 'robust' https://t.co/zh3yC62Ruk
— CNBC (@CNBC) April 29, 2020
US equity markets have held onto their gains for the day in the afterglow of the Fed’s announcement and press conference. Gold prices were initially pushed higher with the committee’s announcement as algo-traders reacted to the inherent promise of very low rates for longer, but the initial momentum was short-lived.
The yellow metal saw choppier trading around the start of Chairman Powell’s press conference as Treasury rates reached the peak of their rally, but gold has ultimately traded higher though the afternoon to tip $1715/oz as the majority of the FOMC’s language and Powell’s discussion points describe a generally bullish setting for gold from the standpoint of both a low-rate environment and a need for safe haven investment.