spread of new variant
The policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee has said it wants to see “substantial” progress toward its goals of full employment and stable inflation before slowing down the monthly bond purchases. The hurdle for rate increases is even higher: A return to maximum employment and inflation that exceeds 2 percent and is expected to slightly overshoot that for some time.
At their meeting in March, the central bank’s officials signaled that interest rates were likely to remain near-zero through 2023 if the economy shapes up as they expect. But investors will be keenly focused on hints about the path ahead when Mr. Powell gives a post-meeting news conference around 2:30 p.m., after the committee’s 2 p.m. statement release.
“By the time of the June meeting well over half of all Americans should be partially vaccinated, and the level of employment could be a few million greater than it is now, allowing the F.O.M.C. to discuss some tangibly improving outcomes,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at J.P. Morgan, wrote in a research note. “For now, however, we think the message from the committee will be little changed from the one delivered six weeks ago.”
Still, the Fed’s commitment to patience — an approach that focuses on real-world outcomes, not just expected ones — is in for its first big challenge. As unemployment drops and inflation picks up, two trends that are expected to play out in the coming months, monetary policymakers are likely to face growing calls to dial back their support to prevent conditions from getting out of hand.
But Mr. Powell and his colleagues have played down concerns about overheating and inflationary warnings that hark back to the 1970s and 1980s, arguing that the world has changed in recent decades.
“We had 3.5 percent unemployment, which is a 50-year low, for much of the last two years before the pandemic,” Mr. Powell said in a recent “60 Minutes” interview. “And inflation didn’t really react much. That’s not the economy we had 30 years ago.”