Stocks were lower, while Treasuries caught a bid following the latest FOMC meeting which was deemed hawkish despite the Fed holding rates as expected. In essence, Chair Powell’s remarks during the press conference made it clear that the central bank is not willing to cut yet.
In response, markets were in a risk-off mood. Fed futures showed that the odds of a rate cut at the next meeting declined from 40% to 36%, while the odds of the first cut happening in May increased to 59% from 54%.
Overall, the policy statement and Powell’s press conference underscored that the Fed is moving in a more dovish direction, just not as fast as the market’s desired pace. The policy statement expressed that there is a better balance in terms of employment and inflation goals. However, before cutting rates, it wants to see even more progress on the inflation front. In essence, the resilient economy and labor market mean that the Fed has more latitude to continue its battle against inflation before pivoting to support the economy and risk re-igniting inflationary pressures.
Rather than hawkish or dovish, its current stance can be characterized as ‘data-dependent’. Some of the important releases, prior to the March FOMC meeting, will be the January and February employment data and consumer price indexes.
Finsum: The Fed held rates steady but came out slightly more hawkish than expected. This led to the odds of a rate cut in March slightly dropping, but the bigger takeaway is that the Fed sees inflation and employment risks as being balanced and remains data dependent.