Fed Holds Steady for Yellen’s Last Meeting as Chair

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The U.S. Federal Reserve has released the minutes of the January 2018 Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meeting. While there were no major adjustments to the course the FOMC has set, this is the last meeting with Janet Yellen heading up the Fed.

In a unanimous vote, the Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged in a range of 1.25%-1.50%, as analysts were expecting, although many are expecting a rate hike during the March meeting.

In this report, the Fed removed previous references to disruptions from hurricanes. Also it said that:

Gains in employment, household spending, and business fixed investment have been solid, and the unemployment rate has stayed low. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have continued to run below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation have increased in recent months but remain low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations are little changed, on balance.

Perhaps the main change to the Fed’s statement was concerning inflation. The FOMC noted that inflation expectations have recently increased, and the rate of price changes is expected to move up this year and stabilize around its 2% objective in the medium term.

According to the FOMC:

The Committee expects that, with further gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions will remain strong. Inflation on a 12-month basis is expected to move up this year and to stabilize around the Committee’s 2 percent objective over the medium term. Near-term risks to the economic outlook appear roughly balanced, but the Committee is monitoring inflation developments closely.

Looking ahead, Jerome Powell will replace Yellen within the next week and is expected to maintain her cautious policy approach.