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No rate hike . . . this time

Bob Moon Aug 8, 2006


KAI RYSSDAL: Mark today on your calendars, folks. It’s the 8th of August, a Tuesday, and Ben Bernanke showed his softer side this afternoon. After 17 straight meetings with 17 straight interest rate hikes, today the Federal Open Market Committee voted to do . . . nothing. The Fed kept its short-term interest rate at 5.25 percent, the first time it’s met and not raised rates since June of ’03. But in a way it was kind of anti-climactic, we’ve been waiting for it for so long, and already everybody’s asking, what’s next? Marketplace’s Bob Moon has the story.

BOB MOON: Some experts think the Fed is through raising interest rates. Others caution this might only be a pause. To summarize what the experts told us today: It all depends.

ART HOGAN:“One of the things that we wanted to get behind us was the Fed raising interest rates. We’re not even sure that that’s behind us yet.”

Art Hogan is chief market strategist at Jeffries and Company. He thinks the Fed could stay on the sidelines at least for the balance of the year. But with unrest in the Middle East and oil prices rising, he concedes anything can happen.

HOGAN: “That’s almost impossible to predict on a going-forward basis, but I certainly think that there’s certainly the credible possibility that the Fed could see some pieces of economic data that speak to enough inflationary pressure that they could get back in the tightening game.”

DAVID WYSS: “It’s pretty clear that they think it’s time to pause. I’m not sure it’s clear that it’s time to stop.”

Standard and Poors chief economist David Wyss is among those who think the Fed isn’t through yet.

WYSS:“My guess would be one more rate hike, probably in September. But I think we have to watch the economic data between now and then to determine.”

Again, it all depends.

And Texas A&M Chancellor Robert McTeer, a former Fed policymaker, has some inside insight into what the rate-setting board might be thinking now.

ROBERT McTEER: “I think it’s highly unlikely that they would stop this meeting, and then go back to tightening next meeting, because that would be saying, ‘Oh, we made a mistake.'”

McTeer is also optimistic that by the next Fed meeting, inflation will look better, as he puts it “in the rear-view mirror.”

In Los Angeles, I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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