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For the Fed, it's a small world after all
The Federal Reserve looked at the data in the U.S. And China. And Europe. And decided: Now is not the time to lift rates, even symbolically, from their historically low levels.
The world is getting smaller by the minute.
The Fed's mandate to manage employment rates in the U.S. has become greatly tied to the health of global economies.
"It's hard to think about jobs without thinking about where you sit around the planet," says says Jeff Moore, portfolio manager at Fidelity. The U.S. job market has been steadily if slowly improving over the past few years. Unemployment stands at 5.1%. Not good enough to lift rates, the Fed basically said in its statement. Weakness overseas threatens the recovery in the U.S. Higher rates will keep the dollar strong, which will make our goods pricey for our trading partners and hurt business. "It's all connected to the jobs piece," says Moore (who says he is not speaking on behalf of Fidelity).
China and the global market volatility in August played a large role in the Fed's decision, says Lee Ferridge, head of North American macro strategy at State Street Global Markets. The strong dollar has tied the Fed's hands. It's "the doorway" between the global and domestic economies, says Ferridge. He's not convinced that a rate rise is in the cards this year.
Caution comes naturally to a central banker. The Fed would rather err on the side of raising rates too slowly than too quickly, says Moore. The delay in a rate rise "give(s) some breathing room to emerging market countries," he says. "Even the Chinese story; it gives it more time."
The hesitation can backfire. "(It) is bound to prompt uncertainty,” says Nigel Green, founder of deVere Group. "By not raising interest rates, the Fed is, in effect, sending out a clear message that it is nervous about China, and the impact a potential hard landing could have on U.S. and global growth," he says.
Legg Mason agrees. "Until it actually moves on rates, lingering uncertainty about the timing of a increase could be a source of volatility in the markets – and perpetuate concerns about distortions in market pricing that result from years of zero-rate policy," the firm wrote in a statement.