Stocks have traded in a yo-yo pattern since last week. Down one day, up the next. They fell sharply yesterday morning, rallied into and shortly after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcement, and then fell again after the announcement.
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The Fed addressed market volatility with the simple statement that it was closely monitoring world market conditions. That’s code for it won’t do anything until the markets calm down. The Fed also lowered its assessment of the economy with a few well-placed word changes. It left all the options on the table for the next meeting as well as the rest of this year.
This is not a change for the Fed. Although its members talked in December about three or four tightening moves this year, they did not commit to any particular path. The Fed is data dependent and simply watching the world go by with the rest of us. There is no plan.
Unless there is a big, global stock rally, count out a tightening in March. This Fed has been cautious overly so, in my opinion, as it should have started tightening a year ago and its nature is not going to change.
Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.