Here’s everything the Fed is expected to do Wednesday

Jerome Powell, Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during the conference celebrating the Centennial of the Division of Research and Statistics, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington D.C., United States on November 08, 2023. (Photo by Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Celal Gunes | Anadolu | Getty Images

This week’s Federal Reserve meeting is likely to mark a substantial turning point for policymakers who have spent the past two years battling runaway inflation.

That there’s virtually no chance central bank policymakers will vote to raise rates is beside the point: What is likely to occur when the Federal Open Market Committee session wraps up Wednesday is a policy turn away from aggressive rate hikes and toward plans for what happens next.

“This would be the third straight meeting where the Fed remained on hold and, in our view, means that the Fed likely sees itself as done with the hiking cycle,” Michael Gapen, U.S. economist at Bank of America, said in a client note.

While acknowledging that future accelerations in inflation could force the Fed to raise rates further, “we think that a cooling economy is more likely and that the narrative should shift in the direction of cuts over hikes in 2024,” Gapen added.

That move to cuts, though likely expressed in a subtle way, would represent a major pivot for the Fed after 11 interest rate hikes.

Along with an announcement on rates, the Fed also will update its projections on economic growth, inflation and unemployment. Chair Jerome Powell also will deliver his usual post-meeting news conference, where he either could discuss a strategy to ease policy now that inflation is decelerating, or continue to talk tough, an outcome that could rattle markets.

Here’s a quick rundown in what to expect:

The statement

In its post-meeting communique, the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee almost certainly will say that it is holding its benchmark overnight borrowing rate in a range between 5.25%-5.5%.

There also could be some language tweaks on the committee’s assessment of employment, inflation, housing and overall economic growth.

For instance, Bank of America thinks the committee might drop its reference to “additional policy firming” and simply say that it is committed to getting inflation back down to 2%.

Likewise, Goldman Sachs sees a possibility that the statement excludes a characterization regarding tighter financial conditions and possibly make a few other small changes that had been used to convey a bias toward raising rates.

Financial conditions, a matrix of economic variables and stock market prices, have loosened considerably since the last Fed meeting concluded on Nov. 1.

“A pause is all but guaranteed,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if there was, if not in the statement then during the presser, a bit of pushback on what has been a loosening of financial conditions. … Powell is going to have to…

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Here’s everything the Fed is expected to do Wednesday

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