US Federal Reserve rows back. Call it the Fed two step -- there’s a vast difference in wording and tone between the post-December rate rise meeting decision, and the sit-and-watch decision this morning. From the belief the economy was solid in December, we now get a wind-back and an acknowledgement that “economic growth slowed late last year”. And the Fed no longer believes the risks are balanced between an economy picking up steam and one slowing further. Business investment, called “strong” last month, is now “moderate.” And the Fed is now closely monitoring “global economic and financial developments" after the slow start to 2016 across the globe.
“Inflation is expected to remain low in the near term,” the Fed said in new, more cautious language in this morning’s statement. But this doesn’t rule out a rate rise in March, just makes it harder to be certain. The question for the Fed is how damaging the rough start to the year in financial markets -- especially in oil prices and the huge cuts in investment and other spending across the energy sectors of the economy -- will be. That is already undermining states such as Texas, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota and states around these big oil and gas states. US Steel reported a 37% slide in revenue for the quarter because of slumping demand for steel pipes and products from the energy sector and rising imports (from China). -- Glenn Dyer