The Federal Open Market Committee begins a scheduled, 2-day meeting today to discuss the country's monetary policy. As is custom, the group will issue a press release to the markets upon adjournment.
There are 8 scheduled FOMC get-togethers annually and the post-meeting press releases are among the most powerful market-moving events of the year.
It's not the Fed's actual policy changes that causes fortunes to be won or lost, though.
These changes can predicted and traded -- and, therefore, hedged -- on Wall Street using Fed Funds Rate Futures. For example, Wall Street predicts with 97% certainty that the Federal Reserve will not make a policy change at this time.
As opposed to than policy change, it's the verbiage of the FOMC's press release that can really move markets. This is because the press release is a clear-eyed look into what the Federal Reserve thinks of the United States economy -- its strengths, its weaknesses, and its threats.
After its January 2009 meeting, the FOMC's press release said:
- The economy has weakened further
- Employment has declined steeply
- A gradual recovery may come later in 2009
Since that meeting, though, a number of high-profile economists, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, have said the likelihood of economic recovery increased for late-2009.
This is why tomorrow's FOMC press release is so important. It will contain clues about the Federal Reserve's next steps and current psyche. Undoubtedly, it will make a significant impact on the mortgage markets.
In general, when the Fed alludes to inflation and stronger growth, mortgage rates rise. Talk of a recovering economy and rising oil prices in tomorrow's press release, therefore, would likely raise rates from their current low levels towards levels not seen for 6 months.
In the end, it's what the Fed says that matters more than what the Fed does. The FOMC is expected to leave the Fed Funds Rate within its target range of 0.000-0.250 percent.
(Image courtesy: Wall Street Journal)