This was expected to be a pretty dull FOMC decision, but there’s one really interesting detail in the statement:
“To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. The Committee views these thresholds as consistent with its earlier date-based guidance. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.”
There’s no more “accommodative” until “at least” 2015 in there. That means the guidance has been totally shifted. And the potential is that the Fed becomes much tighter far sooner than most might expect. Of course, that assumes the economy doesn’t encounter any hiccups between now and a 6.5% unemployment rate, but with the unrate at 7.7% the Fed has given itself a bit more room to operate. That’s probably a good move. Especially if Dr. Bernanke isn’t going to be around past 2013….