The Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee is expected to release its statement on monetary policy Wednesday at 2 p.m. EST, in which its benchmark federal funds rate will likely be increased for the first time in nine years. Following the announcement, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has scheduled a press conference for 2:30 p.m. EST, which can be watched via live stream below, to answer questions about the interest rate decision, the economy and other issues.
Yellen and other central bankers have signaled that the stronger U.S. economy means that conditions are ripe for the Fed to raise its benchmark interest rate this month. Yellen said raising rates would be “a testament...to how far our economy has come in recovering from the effects of the financial crisis and the Great Recession,” according to the New York Times.
Still, Yellen has insisted that any increase would be gradual. The Federal Reserve, the world's most influential central bank, is widely expected to raise its key interest rate, currently at a record-low zero, by a quarter of a percentage point. The rate has hovered between zero and 0.25 percent for the past seven years. Investors will be watching Yellen’s press conference for any specific language she uses about the trajectory of interest rates, according to USA Today.
“The Fed will need to carefully harmonize market expectations with their own forecasts,” market analysts at Société Générale bank in Paris said in a research note. “Sound too constructive and the market could interpret the Fed as being late in the tightening cycle. Sound too pessimistic and some may lose faith in the progress of the economy.”
Rate hikes in the United States will most likely be bad news for investors in emerging market economies, particularly because they might be forced to pull out of riskier assets in favor of safer, dollar-dominated ones.
“Action by the Fed would not significantly affect other developed countries’ interest rates or currencies. However, some emerging market countries are more exposed, particularly those that rely on foreign investors to meet their operating and capital financing needs,” U.S. ratings agency Moody’s said in an analysis released Monday. “While a Fed rate hike would remove an element of uncertainty for emerging market sovereigns, some will remain at risk to adverse capital flows and investor sentiment.”