The U.S. Federal Reserve has again signaled that it may raise interest rates this month—which could be interpreted as a sign of good (read: bullish) things to come, or as a long overdue vote of confidence in the market. The Fed waited nearly seven years to raise rates after the Great Recession in 2009 (LA Times), and another year for the second increase. That another could come so soon after last December’s hike, with the Fed planning more on the horizon, could mean a new take on who has the reins in the economy.
Some thoughts on the potential hike:
It means a more normalized economy, no longer in the defensive stance it held since the recession. “The breadth and consistency of the Fed’s statements seemed to suggest a deliberate effort to shift markets in line with what policymakers see as the new reality – a stronger world economy, steady U.S. growth, and the possibility of fiscal and tax plans that may edge inflation and growth even higher,” according to Reuters.
It’s a vote of confidence in the economy as a whole. “A March rate hike … would mark the first time in years that the Fed raised rates when it did not obviously have to do so, in the sense that it was under no pressure either from markets or from its own prior signals to push ahead with an increase,” according to strategists at Evercore ISI (CNBC).
It didn’t come soon enough. “As long as the Fed pre-signals rate moves, the bond market will never react to ‘data’ — both economic and market data — in the way the Fed intends — i.e., the Treasury market will be constrained in the manner in which it responds to the financial conditions process,” according to Morgan Stanley’s Matthew Hornbach (Bloomberg).