This Game’s Almost Over: Central Banks Are Running Out Of Options

Going into last week’s Fed meeting, the general consensus was that they would not raise rates. When they hiked rates by a quarter point in December, they projected there would be four additional quarter-point raises in 2016. That’s starting to look fishy as we’re almost a quarter of the way through the year and there’s still no hike.

Sure enough, the Fed left rates unchanged as expected last week, and revised their rate expectations lower through 2016. Now, they anticipate only hiking another half point by the end of the year.

But the most interesting part of their policy statement had to do with why they lowered their projections. Rather than citing economic developments here at home as a “data dependent” Fed should do, they referred to global economic developments that are posing risks.

That tells me that the Fed is really just reacting to global currency maneuvers. Right after the Fed statement announcement – where they projected to have only two rate hikes this year, down from four – the U.S. dollar fell sharply against foreign currencies.

It’s going to be hard for the Fed to raise rates here while foreign central banks are easing and going negative with their rates. Just before the Fed and the Bank of Japan (BoJ) met, the European Central Bank (ECB) increased QE and moved rates further negative. And the BoJ adopted negative rates in their January meeting.

Since the Fed and the BoJ announced monetary policy last week and the ECB the week before, it’s probably a good time to look at what’s ahead for central bankers, especially the Fed.

The BoJ didn’t change monetary policy at their meeting last Tuesday. They were probably a little gun-shy after having their last action backfire when they announced a surprise negative interest rate move. They wanted to weaken their currency and move stock higher and the opposite happened.

Then last week their currency got even stronger. The original thought was that by not increasing rates, the Fed wouldn’t pressure the yen. But the dollar fell against the yen and other currencies, making them stronger.

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Author: Travis Esquivel

Travis Esquivel is an engineer, passionate soccer player and full-time dad. He enjoys writing about innovation and technology from time to time.

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