Major Wall Street economists believe the Federal Reserve will not cut rates on Wednesday, but will signal a “readiness” to act in the future.
The central bank will issue its much anticipated interest-rate decision on Wednesday afternoon. They are under pressure to pretty much signal a rate cut is coming, if they don’t do it on Wednesday. Traders have priced in a 20% chance of a rate cut in June and about 80% probability of another reduction in July, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.
But some of the economists believe the Fed may fall short of sending a clear signal that rate cuts are on the way. They say the Fed will remove any hikes from its forecast of future rate moves — the so-called ‘dot plot’ — but not explicitly show a cut is on the horizon.
“We expect the committee will prefer to keep its options open,” stated a note from Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius. “In our view, not enough has changed to warrant a clear signal of an upcoming cut.”
Barclays sees the Fed dropping the word “patience” from its statement and instead adding “flexibility.”
Here’s what the major banks expect at Wednesday’s FOMC meeting:
Bank of America
“While we expect the Fed to keep rates on hold, we think the Fed will communicate that it’s ready to act in order to sustain the expansion and push inflation closer to target. We look for the Fed to change its policy statement to indicate that their patience is wearing thin, and for the median fed funds rate dot to remove all hikes from the forecast horizon. In his Press Conference, Powell will have to tap dance around questions and will likely try to keep the Fed’s options open for July.”
“We expect unchanged policy at [today’s] FOMC meeting, and we place the subjective odds of a June cut at 10%. Financial markets and some commentators view rate cuts this year as a foregone conclusion. And while it is a somewhat close call, we expect the Committee will prefer to keep its options open. In our view, not enough has changed to warrant a clear signal of an upcoming cut. In fact, since the March SEP meeting, stock prices are higher, the unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low, consensus growth forecasts are unchanged, and the very tariffs on Mexico that prompted the latest calls for rate cuts have been taken off the table.”
“We expect the message drawn from the answers given to support the view that the Fed is now more concerned about macro risks to the economy, that for the time being it is in a very watchful mode, and will be fully prepared to act as appropriate to counter downside risks to both growth and inflation. Overall, we expect the message to come out displaying a bias toward easing policy. Should the Fed surprise and cut rates at this meeting, we would expect questioning along similar lines to focus on what will drive the next rate cut.”
“We do not believe the Fed is ready to initiate ‘insurance’ rate cuts in June. Instead, we expect the Fed to stay on hold through the G20 meeting before deciding on a course of action. Moving in advance of the G20 would likely subject the institution to unwanted political criticism. We expect the main message from the June FOMC meeting to be that the committee will ‘act as appropriate’ to sustain the expansion. We look for the committee to signal a preference for “flexibility” over ‘patience’ when assessing incoming information.”
“At [today’s] FOMC meeting we expect the Committee will debate easing the stance of monetary policy, but that they ultimately leave rates unchanged as they await greater clarity on the direction of growth and trade policy. We expect that the median interest rate forecast ‘dot’—which showed no hikes in ’19 and one in ’20—will have no hikes in the forecast horizon. We also look for a handful of dots to expect an ease this year.”
“We do not think that the Fed is set to cut the federal funds rate any time soon. If escalation of tariffs with China is avoided, the underlying economy is slowing, but not by as much as the Fed deems necessary to sustain the expansion. With tariffs, the economy would slow further, but the second half of 2019 would still be above their estimate of sustainable growth. If we are wrong, and the economy is weaker, or escalation of the trade war causes a faster slowing in the economy, the Fed will still take a few months of data before they conclude the economy has slowed more than they desire. Either way, we see a cut by September as plausible but unlikely and a cut in December as possible, but only with a consistent deterioration in the real-side data.”
“The Fed remains on hold while sending a message of readiness to act, which keeps every meeting live. Policymakers will try to avoid rocking the boat ahead of the G20 meeting by delivering an as-expected result. Our strategists suggest UST curve steepeners, real and nominal, and a lower US dollar.”
“We expect the Fed to put the option of rate cuts clearly on the table at its meeting next week given the high level of uncertainty over the outlook. Both the policy statement and Chair Powell at the press conference should indicate that the Fed will act as necessary to sustain the expansion. Dots will move lower and could show a median expectation of a cut this year, although the risk for markets is that the 2019 median is unchanged. Our base case remains that cuts will not be warranted this year, with still-solid US data and potential for a de-escalation of trade tensions at the G20 at the end of June.”