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Fed rate decision could be the prelude to a March cut

Bloomberg
Bloomberg • 2 min read
Fed rate decision could be the prelude to a March cut
Federal Reserve policymakers may finally be right on the verge of cutting interest rates. Photo: Bloomberg
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Federal Reserve policymakers may finally be right on the verge of cutting interest rates.

Going into this week’s two-day policy meeting, which wraps Wednesday afternoon in Washington, investors are assigning roughly even odds to the prospect that the US central bank will start lowering borrowing costs at its next decision in March.

That makes Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference, and any signal he may or may not choose to send, of critical importance. It all comes down to how Powell and his colleagues have been reading the recent spate of economic data.

On one hand, inflation numbers continue to surprise to the downside. The Fed’s preferred gauge decelerated to 2.9% in December 2023, crossing below 3% for the first time since early 2021, according to data published Friday.

On the other, consumer spending continues to be surprisingly robust. It’s undoubtedly getting a boost from the downdraft in inflation, but the strength still may keep some worried that price pressures could mount once again.

Fed decision aside, we will get more US data in the week ahead. Most important will be the monthly jobs report on Friday.

See also: JPMorgan CEO Dimon sees 'lot of inflationary forces in front of us'

Job openings and consumer confidence data on Tuesday — and a quarterly employment cost index release on Wednesday, during the Fed meeting — will also help inform how strong the outlook for spending really is.

Elsewhere, central bank decisions in the UK and Sweden may keep rates on hold while three Latin American central banks are set to cut.

Eurozone inflation and GDP data, and Chinese business surveys will also focus investors, and the International Monetary Fund published new forecasts on Tuesday.

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