The end of today's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting included fresh dovish language in its policy statement - but the market-friendly attitude failed to excite investors who were hoping for more.
As widely expected, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it will stay the course on its bond tapering. Anticipated - but not as expected - the policy statement shed some light on eventual interest rate hikes.
The direction of interest rates has become of hot topic of late. Investors have come to accept the winding down of the Fed's bond buying. But the unknowing path of interest rates has left market participants, businesses, and consumers on edge.
Now the government-reported unemployment rate is at 6.7%, close to the Fed's initial 6.5% target of when they will consider raising rates.
"The Committee currently anticipates that, even after employment and inflation are near mandate-consistent levels, economic conditions may, for some time, warrant keeping the target federal funds rate below levels the Committee views as normal in the longer run," the statement said.
In short, interest rates aren't heading higher now.
Following are highlights from the March statement and conference call that followed.Key Takeaways from Today's FOMC Meeting
- The Fed will trim its monthly bond buying by another $10 billion per month in April to $55 billion from $65 billion in February and March. The Fed will reduce its purchases of long-term Treasury bonds to $30 billion per month and cut its purchases of mortgage-backed securities to $25 billion per month, a reduction of $5 billion for each.
- While the labor market has shown sign of improvement, the Fed said unemployment remains elevated. Moreover, underemployment and long-term employment remain significant concerns. New Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen reiterated the Committee remains committed to fostering maximum employment (by keeping interest rates historically low).
- Since the FOMC met in January, the central bank acknowledged that a spate of reports shows economic activity has slowed. The Fed did mention the harsh winter as a culprit for some of the soft data, but added weather was only partly to blame.
- Household spending and business investment has continued to grow, but the housing market recovery remains anemic.
- The Committee stated that inflation, resting below its 2% target but heating up, could pose risks to economic performance.
- The Fed believes its loose monetary and accommodative policies have been effective.
- Ten of 16 Fed officials said they see the Fed's benchmark interest rate rising to 1% or more by the end of 2015, up slightly from December's projections when only seven saw rates at or above the 1% level. Twelve of 16 officials expect the rate to be at or above 2% by the end of 2016. In December, eight officials saw rates at or above 2% by 2016.
- The Fed has been shifting toward changing the language about its interest rate policy for the last several months. Yellen said, however, that the Fed isn't actually changing its forward guidance. The central bank is only changing the way it looks at data and how the data will affect decisions on future interest rates. It will look at past and present readings, as well as taking into consideration expected reads.
Despite the dovish tone, markets slipped following the FOMC statement.
All three benchmarks, comfortably in the green ahead of the release, fell nearly 1%.
Meanwhile, gold hit session lows, slipping 1.6%, or $24, to $1,330. Putting additional pressure on the yellow metal was a rallying U.S. dollar index and waning geopolitical worries.
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