Fed on hold and dovish: AMP Capital's Shane Oliver

Fed on hold and dovish: AMP Capital's Shane Oliver
Fed on hold and dovish: AMP Capital's Shane Oliver


The US Federal Reserve at its March meeting left interest rates on hold as widely anticipated, but it was more dovish than expected.

While it sees continued moderate growth in the US it also acknowledged ongoing global and financial market risks and lowered its so-called "dot plot" of meeting participants' interest rate expectations to show just two 25 basis point rate hikes this year down from four and lowered the long term interest rate expectation to just 3.25 percent from 3.5 percent.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen in her press conference also signalled a greater willingness to tolerate upside surprise on inflation as opposed to it continuing to run below 2 percent as the Fed has more policy room to deal with an upside surprise in inflation than a downside surprise.

The lowering of the dot plot has again taken the Fed closer to market expectations for interest rates - much as occurred last year when it started by signalling four hikes and only ended up doing one.

The Fed’s dot plot

Click to enlarge

Fed on hold and dovish: AMP Capital's Shane Oliver

Source: Evercore ISI


The Fed appears to have no inclination to hike at its April meeting, but a June hike does look like a reasonable base case, particularly given the recent upwards momentum in US inflation, but with only around a 55 percent probability. And its dependent on global threats and financial market turbulence continuing to settle down.

A risk in recent times has been that a too aggressive Fed will threaten the global outlook by further pushing up the US dollar which in turn would threaten US growth, put more downwards pressure on oil prices and hence energy producers and add to the risk of a funding crisis in the emerging world (as some emerging country borrowers struggle to service US dollar denominated debt).

By continuing to indicate that it is conscious of global risks and that US rate hikes will be data dependent and gradual, the Fed is clearly indicating that it is not going to do anything to consciously threaten the global and US outlook.  

So the Fed's latest decision is supportive for shares and growth assets and should lead to an ongoing stabilisation in the value of the US dollar.

A risk for Australia though is that the Fed's continuing dovishness maintains recent upwards pressure on the value of the $A, which rose 1.5 percent on the Fed’s announcement. This could go further in the short term but with the Fed still heading towards rate hikes (albeit ever more gradual) and the RBA still biased towards cutting rates we still see the $A ultimately resuming its downtrend.


SHANE OLIVER is head of investment strategy and economics and chief economist at AMP Capital and is responsible for AMP Capital's diversified investment funds.

Interest Rates Federal Reserve

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