It seems the central bank has decided to adopt a more dovish stance to monetary policy in 2019.
Some have lauded the move. "Through its normalization program, the [Federal Open Market Committee] has already been sufficiently pre-emptive over the last two years to contain upside inflation risk," said St. Louis Fed leader James Bullard, who has the first Fed official to staunchly oppose the persistent hikes. The news is also going to appease Trump, who has consistently criticized the Fed for raising interest rates, which he claims counters the tax overhaul he has tried to implement.
"Market-based signals such as low market-based inflation expectations and a threatening yield curve inversion suggest that the FOMC needs to tread carefully going forward," he continued.
Despite turbulence in December, the economy has shown relative stability and improvement, with inflation and unemployment rates lowered and the country finally recovering from the 2008 recession. As a result, the Fed has normalized its interest rates, putting them in the 2.25% to 2.5% range. The rates were long held at low levels to promote post-recession growth.
"The case for raising rates has weakened somewhat," said Fed Chair Jerome Powell.
"My colleagues and I have one overarching goal," Mr. Powell said at a news conference on Wednesday following a committee formed "to sustain the economic expansion."
In addition to interest rates, this move could also foreshadow a change in the balance-sheet reduction program, which was previously on autopilot. Trimming the balance sheet is now no longer required, as enough safeguards have been instituted as collateral.
"We've seen this monetary 'U-Turn' coming for a while now, since the start of the fourth quarter of last year," said Ronald-Peter Stoeferle, fund manager at Incrementum AG. "The first central bank to act was the People's Bank of China that lowered reserve requirements in October. The Federal Reserve is just the latest to join other central banks. It's no coincidence that gold prices started to pick up momentum in the fourth quarter of last year."
"Central banks have tried to get out of this zero-interest-rate trap but they aren't able to. The market is addicted to cheap liquidity and I don't think that is going to change anytime soon. There is no way out for central banks caught in this trap," he continued. "Gold does very well in this environment."