As is usually the case, opinion is all over the lot as to the wisdom of the Federal Reserve's decision to keep short-term interest rates at near zero levels. Here are links to (and brief excerpts from) some of the more interesting takes I found, ranging from the relieved to the outraged.
First, a look at how the market responded from Fortune: Stock Market Tumbles: How the Fed Caused a Freakout
On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 289 points. What’s got the market freaked out? First of all, the Fed’s statement. It wasn’t all that surprising that the Fed didn’t raise interest rates. Many people suspected it wouldn’t. What was surprising was that the Fed was more cautious in its statement explaining why it wasn’t raising rates than many people predicted it would. In particular, the Fed said that worrisome conditions in the global economy could slow things down at home. A lot of people thought that was code for a warning about China. The Fed also said inflation is not likely to materialize for a while...
Lower interest rates are normally positive for stocks, and it’s what many people say has been fueling the bull market all along. But there had been warning signs that the economy was not as strong as it initially seemed. Just the same, there had been growing confidence that the U.S. economy was on strong footing and that not even China or a Fed interest rate hike could stop that upward trajectory. In essence, the Fed’s recent statements cast considerable doubt over that line of thinking. Instead, the central bank gave some credence to the idea that the current economic expansion may be closer to the end of its run, rather than in the middle. And that got the market worried.
Relief at The New Yorker: Janet Yellen and the Fed Did the Right Thing
The Fed’s decision was perfectly justified. As it interprets its legal mandate, its job is to maximize employment growth in a manner consistent with an inflation target of two per cent. Despite the fact that job growth has been steady and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.1 per cent, which is close to the level at which the Fed believes inflation starts to accelerate, there is absolutely no sign yet of inflation picking up. To the contrary, headline inflation is running at an annual rate of just 0.2 per cent, and last month consumer prices actually fell a little. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, is running at 1.8 per cent, which is also below the Fed’s target.
Even if you’re an inflation hawk, it’s hard to argue that the Fed needs to act now. For the rest of us, the primary concern is insuring that the economic recovery continues, and that recent tentative signs of wage growth finally translate into real income gains for the majority of Americans.... In presiding over another meeting at which the Fed resisted the demands of inflation hawks, [Yellen] demonstrated that the Fed, under her leadership, will do what it can to support job growth and income growth.
Sympathetic but skeptical from CNBC: Why the Fed Couldn't Raise Rates
There were a lot of reasons for the Federal Reserve to forego a first rate hike. The labor market, despite a huge decline in the unemployment rate, is still displaying some troublesome signs.... At the same time, the quality of the jobs being added is not what it used to be.... And then there is the issue of inflation. Despite telling us that recent disinflationary pressures, caused in part by a stronger dollar and plummeting commodity prices, will be transitory, the Fed appears increasingly concerned that further economic deceleration in China (and elsewhere) could lead to more sustained pressure on price levels.... And then there are issues relating to the stability of the global economy and global financial system. Leading up to the most recent meeting, the Fed had been strongly encouraged to defer the rate hike by emerging-market countries, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
The Fed's explicit strategy all along has been to boost household wealth through stock and housing gains, hopefully causing a trickle-down effect. Now, heavily committed to that strategy, the Fed believes that if it moves to soon to tighten, it will risk reversing some of those (perceived) hard-fought asset-price gains. So, in exchange for very little economic benefit, the Fed continues to perpetuate the notion that it will protect those willing to assume undue risk.... The evidence is overwhelming that the economy is only working for a relative few, and years of ultra-loose monetary policy has done little to fix the situation. So why does the Fed keep doubling down on the same failed policies?
Not sympathetic at all at Forbes: How The Fed Lost Its Cred
Let me breakdown some of the details of exactly how the century old institution became a joke. By deferring the decision to not raise interest rates until later the Fed is causing more uncertainty for the U.S. economy and as a consequence the global economy.... The Fed points to recent financial market tumult as a reason not to raise rates. Financial markets are designed to be forums for price discovery that allow the buying and selling of things, in this case stocks. The tail does not wag the dog, so why is the Fed letting the markets rule the roost?... The market reaction, such as it was, emanated from China in the summer. But the economic problems in that country were evident to those looking a long time before that.... If the Fed didn’t notice that until this summer we are in real trouble....
The Fed continues to stick to its guns that it wants inflation to hit its two percent target. And yet it is clear to so many people that the inflation metrics the government issues just don’t reflect life in the supermarket for most people. While I don’t see 1970s style inflation, the effect of rising prices is obvious in most things I spend money on.... It’s clear that not even the Fed thinks the stated unemployment rate is worth much. Economists know that the official 5.1% rate from the government doesn’t reflect what it used to before the financial crisis. Then it would be an indication of a strong labor market. Now, not so much because millions of people have simply given up looking for work.
Outrage from savers per CNN/Money: Savers Are Fed Up with 0% Interest
Every time Dennis Johnson checks his bank account statement, he feels like he's been punched. Johnson followed the American Dream playbook: he worked hard and saved, but his money earns nothing in the bank. "When you have a bank account with $10,000 to $15,000 and it gets 0% interest, it rubs you the wrong way," says Johnson, who is an accountant living in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area.... It really upsets savers like Ric Fiano of Savannah, Georgia. "I look at these banks recording record profits -- billions every quarter -- and they are so miserly they can't even pay 0.5% on a high yield account," says Fiano, 61, who runs a psychology practice. Fiano and Johnson think it's time the Fed raised interest rates so people who save can earn some money too. The average return on a savings account in the United States is a mere 0.1%, according to Bankrate.com. That's a big change from 2006 when savers could get up to a 5% return at the bank....
Even if the U.S. central bank raises rates later this year, people with money in checking or savings accounts may not be better off immediately. America's biggest banks want to earn higher profits, says Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com. They won't want to pass along higher savings rates to their customers right away. "A rate hike by the Fed isn't going to be a gamer changer by any means for savers. It's still going to be a long, tough slog," says McBride.