Eyes on Yellen's testimony on state of US economy

Published Sun, Feb 22, 2015 · 09:50 PM

NOW that Greece's problems have been pushed four months down the road, the market's attention will this week turn to US interest rates. Specifically, Tuesday and Wednesday when US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen will deliver her testimonies on the state of the US economy to the Senate and then the House of Representatives. In this connection, the words she uses and the message she delivers will be important, given that US indices are at or near all-time highs.

For much of last year, "Fed-speak'' drove Wall Street stocks and by extension the rest of the world. We're referring, of course, to the language used in the post-Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meeting statements that deal with interest rates. More specifically, words describing the length of time that the Fed would wait before raising rates - it started with the Fed saying it would wait "a considerable time'' after the end of its quantitative easing programme, and then continued with the central bank saying it could afford to be "patient'' when it came to rate hikes.

In its preview of Ms Yellen's speeches, financial research firm Ideaglobal said markets have just digested fairly dovish FOMC minutes of the Jan 28 meeting but are left wondering just how Fed views might have evolved since that time given the subsequent very strong January employment report, that critically included a strong bounce in hourly earnings, a report Fed Governor Jerome Powell said "had everything" and also given the developments still taking shape in Europe.

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