Strategist Says Fed Decision Pleased the Market, But May Be Too Cautious

February 20, 2019

By Tracey Cheek

The Federal Reserve released the minutes of its January meeting to the public on Wednesday ー and while the market was unfazed by the note explaining why the benchmark interest rate was kept within its current range, Michael Lee, portfolio manager and market strategist at Altium Wealth, told Cheddar the central bank may be too cautious.

"I think we're creating problems by not raising interest rates right here, because when you leave interest rates this low it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," he said. "The example for that is Japan. Japan kept rates for too low for too long, and their economy hasn't grown."

The minutes revealed that, while committee members left the target rate range unchanged at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, there wasn't agreement on how to proceed from here, with officials saying they'd take a "patient" approach to further policy moves. Investors had been worried the Fed might be too aggressive with raising rates down the road.

"I think we're a long way from normalization, but the market basically got what it wanted in these minutes today," said Lee.

But the meeting minutes noted members' uncertainty surrounding the evolution of U.S. and foreign government policies, which comes as investors and lawmakers are waiting to see if the U.S. and China strike a trade deal on March 1. Lee said concerns about China tensions contributed to the Fed's decision not to raise interest rates but that a cautious approach may backfire.

"My personal hope is that [Fed Chairman Jerome Powell]... can sneak in a few more rate hikes that can slowly but surely wind down this balance sheet, so we have a lot more tools come the next recession ... to soften that blow."

For full interview click here.