In Depth Analysis: CalculatedRisk Newsletter on Real Estate (Ad Free) Read it here.

Monday, October 22, 2012

FOMC Preview

by Calculated Risk on 10/22/2012 12:25:00 PM

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a statement expected at 2:15 PM ET on Wednesday. The FOMC is expected to take no action at this meeting, although the members will probably discuss setting explicit economic targets for ending QE3 purchases or tightening policy ...

From Cardiff Garcia at Alphaville: Early FOMC preview

... there are a few things that might happen, even if we not get the full picture until the minutes come out a few weeks later.

The most important item is that the committee will continue discussing whether to adopt explicit economic targets to determine when tightening (ie raising rates from exceptionally low levels) would begin, replacing the current approach of giving a calendar date, which now mid-2015.
Although the Fed might mention the recent pickup in economic activity, they will not change course quickly. From Neil Irwin at the WaPo: How an improving economy makes new Fed policies more potent
A key part of the Fed’s new strategy last month was to announce that the FOMC “expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens.” In other words, the central bank aimed to assure the world that it would not pull away the support strut of low interest rates until the economy was well along in recovering, so long as inflation doesn’t threaten to get much above the Fed’s 2 percent target.
It looks like the unemployment rate will decline more than the Fed projected (see second table below), but the rate is still high at 7.8% - and 2% GDP is nothing to get too excited about.

Here are the FOMC Sept meeting projections for GDP and unemployment, and the June projections to show the change.

GDP projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents
Change in Real GDP1201220132014
Sept 2012 Projections1.7 to 2.02.5 to 3.03.0 to 3.8
June 2012 Projections1.9 to 2.42.2 to 2.83.0 to 3.5
1 Projections of change in real GDP are from the fourth quarter of the previous year to the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

The BEA reported GDP increased at a 2.0% annual pace in Q1, and at a 1.3% annual pace in Q2. Forecasts for Q3 have been revised up recently, but the consensus is only for 1.9% annualized in Q3. So this is still close to the recent projections.

The unemployment rate was at 7.8% in September, and that is below the most recent projections for Q4 2012. That is just one month of data. It is possible that the unemployment situation might not be as bad as the FOMC projected, but the unemployment rate is still very high. The key is there is nothing in the recent data that will make the Fed change course any time soon.

Unemployment projections of Federal Reserve Governors and Reserve Bank presidents
Unemployment Rate2201220132014
Sept 2012 Projections8.0 to 8.27.6 to 7.96.7 to 7.3
June 2012 Projections8.0 to 8.27.5 to 8.07.0 to 7.7
2 Projections for the unemployment rate are for the average civilian unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of the year indicated.

So the FOMC will probably take no action, might mention the recent slight improvement in economic data, and will probably reiterate "If the outlook for the labor market does not improve substantially, the Committee will continue its purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities, undertake additional asset purchases, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate until such improvement is achieved in a context of price stability." and "To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the economic recovery strengthens."