U.S. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) Press Conference
Eric Furstenberg • 4 min read
When the FOMC release their interest rate decisions, they usually also host a press conference which is an important means of communicating to investors about their monetary policy and reasons for certain actions.
Before I go into more detail about what to expect from these press conferences, let’s investigate the FOMC and what its function is.
About the FOMC
The FOMC is a branch of the FED (Federal Reserve) and is in charge of the policy-making associated with the nation’s money supply.
The FOMC meets eight times a year to decide about interest rates and other aspects of monetary policy.
The FED chair is traditionally also selected as the FOMC’s chairperson. The voting members of the FOMC are the FED’s seven members of its Board of Governors, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and four presidents of other Federal Reserve Banks who rotate on a one-year basis.
The FOMC attract much media attention because they are in charge of making interest rate decisions and also govern other monetary policies.
The FOMC and Interest Rates
A country’s interest rate has much to do with the strength of its currency. In fact, it is a major driver of exchange rates and arguably the most important influencing factor when it comes to currency valuation.
A country’s interest rate plays a major role in the flow of global capital into and out of it. Capital flow can move exchange rates considerably, of course.
Because the United States’ economy is the largest in the world, its interest rate decisions are highly anticipated events.
These rate decisions can cause immense volatility over a wide range of asset classes which include the forex, commodity, and stock markets.
The FOMC's dealings can move the value of the U.S. dollar dramatically.
Of course, the anticipation of how U.S. interest rates will change often causes greater market movement than the rate decisions itself.
This happens because clever market players attempt to ‘price in’ interest rate changes long before they actually
In order to do this, these traders pay close attention to what the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) members convey to the public via speeches and comments, as well as the press conference, their interest rate ‘dot plot’, and the FOMC statement, that usually accompany the interest rate decision itself. (Of course, the events that take place at the same time or after the rate decision can only be used to estimate future interest rate changes).
Consequently, the FOMC press conference and these other events which accompany the actual rate announcement are many times more important than the rate decision itself.
This should come as no surprise as the interest rate is merely a number while the press conference and these other events can reveal much information about the state of the American economy as well as the outlook regarding future rate hikes or cuts.
When the interest rate announcement takes place, market players have often already ‘priced it in’ which can greatly reduce its immediate impact on the market.
Contrary to this, the press conference and these other events have more variables and potential surprises which need to be considered and analyzed by the different market participants.
What to Expect From FOMC Press Conferences
The FOMC press conference follows 30 minutes after the release of the FOMC interest rate decision, statement, and economic projections.
This press conference is hosted by the FOMC chairperson who discusses different aspects of the U.S. economy, monetary policy, and related information. After delivering and discussing this information, the chairperson usually answers some of the guests’ questions.
The chairperson usually mentions why the FOMC decided to set the interest rate where they did. Then he or she could review some of the recent economic developments in the FOMC’s outlook, which may include information regarding household spending, improvements (or the deterioration) of the job market, consumer sentiment, consumer wealth, business investment, exports, unemployment rate, participation in the labor force, participation rate, inflation outlook, etc.
After this, economic projections are typically discussed which include estimations of the real GDP, unemployment rate, and median inflation.
Something else that is covered in the press conference is the FED’s ‘dot plot’ which is the midpoint of the target range or target level for the federal funds rate (expressed as a percentage and plotted with dots on a chart). This gives investors a rough idea of where interest rates are expected to be in the near- to medium-term.
Dr. Janet Louise Yellen is the current Chair of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System. Her four-year term ends on February 3, 2018.
Risks and Opportunities
The FOMC rate decision and the accompanying statement, economic projections, interest rate ‘dot plot’, and press conference, together form a high-level risk event which is capable of delivering extraordinary volatility. You should, therefore, exercise caution when trading this important event.
Remember, that market liquidity can be really thin when the FOMC announces its rate decisions. This makes trading dangerous because the price could gap through your stop losses and other orders.
Even really liquid currency pairs, which include the EUR/USD, GBP/USD, USD/JPY, and USD/CHF, can behave irrationally and experience price gaps due to illiquid market conditions when the FOMC rate decision is announced. To learn more about how to trade these major pairs, please click on the links above.
Many traders and investors typically don’t trade this event (at the time it is released or immediately thereafter) because of the major risks involved.
The FOMC interest rate decisions and the accompanying events can spark strong impulses which can last for several days and even much longer.
Therefore, you can utilize the volatility triggered by these events and capitalize thereon if you trade in the direction of the market’s momentum.
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With regards to strong market momentum caused by some FOMC meetings, it is really important to be aware that the markets often don’t react with the force that many traders expect from certain high-level events.
Every situation is different and therefore it is crucial to carefully analyze the technicals and fundamentals before engaging in the markets.
Remember, trading is all about observation. Good luck with your trading!