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Fed Mouthpiece "Explains" Janet Yellen's "Less Dovish" Hold

“Helm, warp one, engage!” 

There aren’t many things you can count on in this crazy world, but one constant is Jon Hilsenrath’s hallmark lightspeed, embargo-assisted copy editing skills and make no mistake, it’s a good thing Hilsy can turn a 539-word FOMC statement into a 593-word article because with all of the confusion going on in the Eccles Building these days, someone has to explain things to the world - and quick.

Below, find the Fed whisperer's latest, in which he attempts to come across as less befuddled than the central planners he's writing about when it comes to explaining how Janet Yellen and co. have become the embodiment of the "deer in headlights" meme now that their new reaction function includes an admission of their own reflexivity. Here's Hilsenrath on what certainly looks like a "less dovish" hold.


Federal Reserve officials Wednesday kept short-term interest rates unchanged near zero, but opened the door more explicitly than they have before to raising rates at a final 2015 meeting in December.

In a statement following a two-day policy meeting, Fed officials suggested they had become less concerned in recent weeks about turbulent financial markets and uncertain economic developments overseas.


They also pointed specifically to the next meeting as a time when they would be assessing whether it was time to raise rates.


“In determining whether it will be appropriate to raise (interest rates) at its next meeting, the (Fed) will assess progress-both realized and expected-toward its objectives of maximum employment and 2 percent inflation,” the Fed said in its statement.


The reference to the next meeting effectively meant the Fed’s decisions about rates are now being made on a meeting-to-meeting basis, though they stopped short of committing to an immediate move.

Officials struck from the statement a sentence introduced in September which pointed to market turbulence and global developments as a potential restraint on U.S. economic activity.

That doesn’t assure a rate increase this year, but it reduces an impediment officials had stressed in September as standing in their way.

The central bank said Wednesday that it is still monitoring financial markets and developments abroad, meaning it isn’t yet confident these threats—such as the economic slowdown in China—have fully receded.

Still, officials pointed to “solid” growth rates in consumer spending and business investment and improvements in housing as bright spots in recent economic developments.

The Fed pushed short-term interest rates to zero in December 2008 and has kept them there for 82 straight months.

Officials began the year signaling a rate increase was likely in 2015 as the job market improved and slack in the economy diminished. Though job growth largely lived up to hopes, inflation has been lower than officials expected, stalling the Fed’s plans to raise interest rates.

The air has cleared a bit since September. For example, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 5% since the last meeting, a sign financial markets stress has dissipated. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes have dropped, as has the cost of investment grade corporate debt, while the dollar has strengthened.

Still, economic data have been unsteady, a point officials acknowledged in their statement Wednesday.

Most notably, the Labor Department reported a disappointing jobs report earlier this month. The Fed said job gains had slowed. On balance, however, they didn’t appear very alarmed about the soft jobs report.

“Labor market indicators, on balance, show that underutilization of labor resources has diminished since early this year,” the Fed said.

Other obstacles potentially stand in the Fed’s way. Officials noted in their statement that expectations for future inflation—as measured in bond markets—had receded “slightly” further in recent weeks, a sign investors don’t expect a rebound in consumer prices soon.

Fed officials watch inflation expectations closely, because expectations can affect the prices individuals, businesses and investors actually demand for goods and services.

Fed officials said, as they have before, that they won’t raise rates until they become “reasonably confident” inflation will raise to their 2% objective after running below it for more than three years.

They also want to see “some further improvement” in the job market.

Jeffrey Lacker, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, dissented, as he did in September. He wanted to raise the Fed’s target interest rate, called the federal funds rate, by a quarter percentage point.


The Fed’s next meeting is Dec. 15-16, the final meeting before year-end. Officials will update their forecasts for the economy before the meeting and Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen will hold a press conference after its conclusion