Banking & Finance

No Change to Interest Rate, QE; Forecast Mixed -- FOMC

Ben Bernanke Official Portrait
Source: courtesy U.S. Federal Reserve
The less things change, the more time everyone has to speculate about what might happen if things do change. As expected, the Federal Reserve’s FOMC today announced that it is leaving the overnight lending rate unchanged at 0.25% or less and that it will continue its $85 billion per month asset purchase program.

The vote was 11 to 1, with only Fed Governor Elizabeth George voting against. George’s “no” vote was based on here that “continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.”

The Fed’s economic projections got a pretty good workover, though, since the publication of the December projections. The projected GDP growth for 2013 has been lowered from a range of 2.3% to 3% to a new range of 2.3% to 2.8%. Estimated GDP growth for 2014 has dropped from 3% to 3.5% to a new range of 2.9% to 3.4%.

The projected unemployment rate for the year has fallen from a December range of 7.4% to 7.7% to a new range of 7.3% to 7.5%. U.S. unemployment came in at 7.7% in February. The projection for U.S. unemployment to fall to 6.5% remains projected for 2015.

Inflation projections fell slightly from a December projection for 2013 inflation in the range of 1.3% to 2% to a new range of 1.3% to 1.7%. Projections for 2014 and 2015 were unchanged.

There is nothing in the Fed’s statement that indicates a quicker end to asset purchases or near-zero interest rates other than a mild statement that “labor market conditions have shown signs of improvement.” Now, let the close analysis begin.