Forget Football; the most watched event this week for the markets concerns the Federal Reserve.
America’s central bank wraps up its two day meeting on Wednesday and will subsequently outline its latest monetary policy.
Investors’ key focus: interest rates, interest rates, interest rates.
The Fed has been holding down the federal funds rate near zero since the financial crisis, but a strengthening economy has lead to speculation that it will raise rates sooner than later. Most analysts predict the first rate hike will occur next summer.
In a worst case scenario, the Fed would raise rates too quickly, and the move would derail the stock market rally and the U.S. economy.
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Keep an eye on the Fed’s policy statement Wednesday. The precise wording matters. In previous statements, the Fed has said it intends to keep rates low for a “considerable time” until the job market improves and as long as inflation remains in check. If the Fed removes those two words, analysts say the markets could sell off as investors brace for a jump in rates.
“Dropping ‘considerable time’ would be a major hawkish step,” wrote Citigroup (C) strategist Steven Englander, in a research note Friday.
Fed chief Janet Yellen will hold a press conference Wednesday after the Fed releases its statement, and most economists believe she will do her best to reassure investors that the Fed plans to keep supporting the economy as long as necessary.