US Fed unlikely to announce rate cut on Wednesday

Washington, Dec 13 (IANS): The US Federal Reserve meets on Wednesday to review its monetary policy, but it’s unlikely to announce any interest rate cut and keep it stable as it would opt to to move carefully even as inflation has cooled down.

Inflation is now at 3.1 per cent though the Fed's target is to keep it at 2 per cent on an annualised basis.

The central bank is overwhelmingly expected to keep rates on hold -- a view that Tuesday's consumer inflation report did little to change. The debate now centres around whether the Fed believes it has done enough in dampening inflation to start cutting rates before the summer, media reports said.

The focus is firmly on the Fed's policy decision due Wednesday, with investors on alert for signs of an end to interest rate hikes in Fed Chair Jerome Powell's comments.

With the policy update expected at 2 p.m. (ET) followed by a press conference by Powell , most of the market volatility is expected to come in the final 90 minutes of trading on Wednesday as a listen-in for clues on when the Fed may cut interest rates.

The Fed is widely-expected to hold interest rates steady at the end of the central bank’s last policy meeting of 2023, said Barbara Rockefeller of the Rockefeller Treasuries Services Inc, a portfolio advisor to investors.

Investors will listen out for any sign that the most aggressive rate-hiking campaign since the 1980s is over when the policy decision comes.

The Fed became aggressive on hiking interest rates when last year inflation soared to a 40-year high of 9.1 per cent. Continuous interest rate hikes were announced to rein in inflation which has now shown a downward trend since November this year.

Inflation data on Tuesday was only a little disappointing and rate cut mania abated only a little, but the reality check points to “not yet” on the trend sustainability.

The CME Fed funds futures table still has over 100 bp in cuts expected in 2024, although the first cut probability shown for the March meeting fell back to under 50 per cent after CPI came out, Rockefeller said.

The Fed statement on Wednesday could be previewed here: The Fed funds rate is kept the same. The economy is already in the process of a soft landing. Progress on taming inflation needs to become demonstrably sustainable. The Fed will not move prematurely to cut rates but will be cautious and careful, she said.

Deduction: The first cut will be in June 2024, not March, and there will be only one more cut before the November elections, probably in September. Inflation remains sticky in services and will delay the Fed’s first cut because core is up 0.3 per cent in November after 0.2 per cent the month before.

Meanwhile, US stocks were a mixed bag on Wednesday, eyeing a bid for fresh 2023 highs, as investors braced for the Fed's last interest-rate decision of the year, media reports said.

Stocks opened Wednesday's trading day marginally higher as investors awaited the latest policy update. The Nasdaq Composite popped about 0.1 per cent while the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average teetered on both sides of the flat line.



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Title: US Fed unlikely to announce rate cut on Wednesday

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