日期:2015-03-23 10:56


It was one of the most hotly awaited Federal Reserve meetings since Janet Yellen became Fed chairwoman over a year ago. The Fed on Wednesday ditched its pledges to be patient before increasing interest rates, allowing it to hike as soon as June in what would be the first upward move for close to a decade.
这是自珍妮特•耶伦(Janet Yellen)一年前上任美联储(Fed)主席后,最受外界期待的一次美联储会议。在周三的这次会议上,美联储放弃了在加息问题上“保持耐心”的承诺,这使得美联储最早将于6月加息,这将是美联储近10年来首次加息。
However, the Fed surprised markets by setting out a shallow longer-term path for rate hikes — as well as by cutting its growth and inflation projections. This changed picture likely reflects in part the recent surge in the dollar, which is dragging on the US economy. The overall message is that the Fed still wants to prime the markets for higher rates, but it is very much taking a softly-softly approach.
No more “patience”?
That word — effectively a pledge to keep rates at near-zero levels for at least two meetings — no longer appears in the Federal Open Market Committee’s statement. This was no surprise. Ms Yellen said pretty clearly to Congress back in February that she wanted to free the FOMC’s hands to move rates when it saw fit. The Fed is making a careful transition away from its practice of offering markets meticulous guidance on where borrowing costs will go, to making decisions on a meeting-by-meeting basis.
What are the Fed’s new signals on rates?
The Fed has a new test which was also foreshadowed in Ms Yellen’s Congressional testimony. Rate-setters will need to see “further improvement in the labor market” as well as being “reasonably confident” that inflation is heading back to the 2 per cent target over the medium term — around three years. The FOMC’s new forecasts suggest unemployment is on the right track — it will drop to as low as 4.8 per cent by 2017 from the current 5.5 per cent level. While weak inflation is a bigger headache for the Fed, the recent declines in inflation are still expected to be transitory, with the FOMC expecting price growth to be running at 1.9 to 2 per cent by 2017.
So the way is clear for hikes this year?
That is still the view of the vast majority of the FOMC. Some 15 of 17 members expect the first move to come in 2015. And while Ms Yellen insisted that the market should not assume an initial hike will come as soon as June, she was not ruling that month out either. But the message that investors took away from the Fed’s March meeting was a dovish one: the latest rate projections from Fed officials suggest the first move now won’t come until September. FOMC members’ median interest rate projections for the end of 2015, 2016 and 2017 were all reduced by 0.5-0.75 of a point compared with December.
是的,这仍是FOMC绝大多数委员的观点。17名委员中有15名预计,第一次加息将发生在2015年。尽管耶伦坚称,市场不应想当然地认为最早将于6月首次加息,但她也不排除这种可能。但是,投资者从美联储最新会议中听到的仍是一种鸽派的声音:美联储官员的最新利率预测显示,首次加息将不会早于9月。 FOMC委员们对2015年底、2016年底和2017年底的利率预测平均值,都较去年12月时的水平降低了0.5至0.75个点。
Why the changed interest-rate outlook?
The Fed’s projections for interest rates, growth and inflation are all weaker than in December — and a number of factors are at work. A critical one is the dollar’s surge to multi-decade highs, which has in itself represented an effective tightening of financial conditions. While Ms Yellen said the strong dollar reflected a strong US economy, she also observed that it would restrain import prices and inflation for longer than expected. The FOMC also noted a weakening in exports, which is a result of the dollar’s surge. There are other changes that tilt in a dovish direction. For example, the Fed has decided that the longer-run rate of unemployment is lower than previously believed, at 5-5.2 per cent compared with 5.2-5.5 per cent, which could point to more slack in the jobs market.
What was the market reaction?
The Fed’s shallower path for rate hikes — plus its jawboning on dollar headwinds — led to a sharp drop in the greenback against the euro on Wednesday afternoon. Stocks rallied, as did bonds, in a reflection of relief among investors that the Fed is taking a cautious approach to higher rates. As Ms Yellen said herself: the opposite of patient is not impatient — a message traders embraced with relief. Officials still expect rates to settle eventually at 3.75 per cent — much higher than the market expects — but it will take longer for them to get there. The question remains whether the Fed is mollycoddling investors with dovish language — and whether a sharp and painful adjustment to the market’s rock-bottom interest-rate expectations still lies ahead.