It was September 2012 when the central bank first set out the expectation it would keep interest rates at historically low levels for a good long time. In the ministerial language of modern government banking, the agency has predicted “a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time” for better than two years now.
A considerable time may finally come to an end Wednesday when the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meets and Chairman Janet Yellen holds a press conference.
Since the central bank first used the phrase to assure global investors it was on guard against another financial meltdown, the American economy has gone over the fiscal cliff (and survived), added almost six million jobs and repaired the housing market. The median price of an existing single-family home is up 18 percent since the bank first made its “considerable time” vow.
While there is no argument the economy is in better shape, it has been a lumpy recovery with many Americans still struggling with underwater mortgages, few job opportunities and too much debt.
There’s plenty of concern the Fed already has waited too long to ease off on its stimulate efforts. Critics worry that, after several years of stagnant wages, inflation is poised to jump. However, there is little evidence of overall inflation picking up. And with the bigger financial cushions the Fed is proposing for big banks, there’s a lower risk of banks flooding the economy with easy loans.
If the agency forgoes its “considerable time” assurance, it is not expected to actually raise interest rates Wednesday. The Fed has held its short-term interest rates near zero since late 2008, considerably longer than anyone imagined it would.
Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts The Sunshine Economy on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow @HudsonsView on Twitter.