June is a month of transitions — graduations, weddings, seasons, and perhaps, U.S. monetary policy.
It’s been six and a half years since the Federal Reserve first pushed its target interest rate to essentially zero percent. While the Central Bank is not likely to change its policy during its two-day meeting in the week ahead, it could send as clear of a signal yet that it is ready for change.
The Federal Reserve has been leading the economic fight to get the U.S. economy rolling again after the Great Recession. It’s cut interest rates, poured billions of dollars into the economy by buying government and mortgage-backed bonds and generally tried to jawbone consumers and corporations into spending money.
While the U.S. economy actually shrank during the first three months of the year, companies have kept hiring at a decent pace. Through May, there were more than one million more jobs in America than at the end of last year. Those working were making more money. And there were a record number of job openings with U.S. employers.
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The cost of cash that follows the Fed in the marketplace from mortgages to auto loans to interest rates on credit card balances affects millions of American households — even if the Federal Reserve is obvious, methodical and steady in its approach. That’s why the bank’s every utterance is parsed for any evidence of alteration.
There’s a robust debate being had over when the Fed should begin to raise interest rates. Will it be as soon as next month? Maybe it won’t be until next spring. Regardless of the exact date of change, the season of transition appears to be here.
Financial journalist Tom Hudson hosts The Sunshine Economy on WLRN-FM in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @HudsonsView.