After a week-long wait for something of substance from Fed Chair Janet Yellen in her widely-anticipated speech at Jackson Hole Friday, markets were somewhat disappointed when what they got from the aging, dowdy Fed Chairwoman was more of the same, a garbled, directionless mumbling about a strengthening US economy and plenty of buts, ahs, and well maybes.
Yellen seemed to express that a rate hike was on the table in September - just as it was in February, June and July - but offered certain caveats, not the least of which was that unexpected events could derail any plans the Fed might have considered.
Adding to the dismay and confusion were three separate comments by Fed officials in the immediate aftermath of Yellen's speech.
Vice Chairman, Stanley Fischer first spoke up with a weak affirmation that a rate hike in September was possible, but quickly afterward, Atlanta president, Dennis Lockhart, and St. Louis president James Bullard offered a different view, questioning the wisdom of a rate hike in September or even December.
Since markets have been on a razor's edge since Brexit and will be until the presidential election in November, it does seem a stretch that the Fed would risk a market collapse triggered by a rate hike, such as what happened after their last 1/4 basis point increase last December.
The Fed being less stoic and more political than ever, risking injury to Hillary Clinton's election - the choice of the status quo - would be foolhardy and dangerous.
Not to say that the Fed is not both of those, but when there's a real risk that an outsider - Donald J. Trump - could ascend to the highest office in the land, the Fed will be watching its own best interests, which would imply that a federal funds rate increase in September is certainly a no-go.
Now that the Fed has wasted the better part of a month and delivered nearly nothing of substance, one wonders what they can do for an encore. Oh, that's right. Eight years of loose, experimental monetary policy and promises of more to come.
Friday's Closing Data:
Dow Jones Industrial Average
18,395.40, -53.01 (-0.29%)
5,218.92, +6.71 (0.13%)
2,169.04, -3.43 (-0.16%)
10,749.33, -35.04 (-0.32%)
For the Week:
Dow 30: -157.17 (-0.85%)
S&P 500: -14.83 (0.68%)
NASDAQ: -19.46 (-0.37%)
NYSE Composite: -79.83 (-0.74%)