Will interest rates finally go up? Federal Reserve officials begin a two-day meeting today, with the financial world waiting with bated breath on Janet Yellen's subsequent announcement. "Anyone who uses money" will ultimately be affected, observes NPR, which offers a primer here. Other highlights in coverage:
- 'Nail-biter': This one is tough to predict, with some members of the Federal Open Market Committee that is meeting open to a hike and others opposed. "Officials could seek some middle ground, such as holding rates near zero while sending a signal that a rate increase is likely at the Fed’s Oct. 27-28 or Dec. 15-16 policy meetings," notes the Wall Street Journal. "Given the uncertainty, how Ms. Yellen frames what the Fed is doing will be as important as what the Fed actually does."
- A more important question: Everyone's asking will the Fed raise rates, "but there’s another important consideration that isn’t asked nearly enough: Can the Fed raise interest rates?" writes Matt Phillips at Quartz. Things have gotten far more complicated since the last bump nine years ago, and the Fed's real challenge is to show "it still has the market muscle and technical know-how to get rates up and keep them there."
- 'Untested tools': "In normal times, the Fed would control rates by adding or subtracting 'reserves' to the banking system," notes Fortune. "If it wanted to raise rates, it would sell Treasury bills to banks in exchange for these reserves. But after years of quantitative easing, the system has been flooded by reserves, and therefore it must use new and untested tools" to get the job done.
- A firm no: "Monetary policy should seek to avoid major surprises," writes former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers at his blog. "Right now the fed funds futures market is assigning only a 28% chance to a September tightening. In the last 20 years, the Fed has never tightened without guiding the futures market to at least a 70% chance of a tightening. So a move now, given how expectations have been managed, would be an extraordinary shock at a highly uncertain time."
- A firm yes: It's time to "return to basics," writes Brad Brooks at Bloomberg View. "The Fed should raise rates 0.25% this September and 0.50% thereafter. Already this century, the Fed has helped enable two bubbles that resulted in equity corrections of 40% and 50%. Investors would be wise to remember that if the Fed doesn't raise rates now."
- Reading the dots: The key to the Fed's move may be found in something called a "dot plot" of interest rate projections. Bloomberg has a primer.
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