U.S. Markets open in 5 hrs 41 mins

The Fed's minutes may unlock details about Jerome Powell's ultimate plan

Scott Gamm
U.S. President Donald Trump looks on as Jerome Powell, his nominee to become chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Wednesday’s minutes of the Federal Reserve’s September meeting, released at 2 p.m. ET, may reveal more details about the pacing of the central bank’s rate hikes, which have rattled investors and President Trump over the past week.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Fed in recent days, calling it “crazy” and “too cute” in various media interviews.

Investors seemed to largely agree with this characterization — and sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) down over 1,300 points over a few trading sessions last week, as higher interest rates make stocks less attractive.

The Fed has raised interest rates three times this year and has telegraphed a fourth hike as soon as December.

But Danielle DiMartino Booth, a former Federal Reserve advisor and CEO of Quill Intelligence, doesn’t expect Wednesday’s minutes to reflect the market’s recent worry over interest rates.

“With Jay Powell, we have seen clean minutes,” she told Yahoo Finance, describing the minutes as a summation of the Fed’s thinking at the time of the September meeting.

She said former Fed chairs Ben Bernanke and Janet Yellen used to massage the minutes if they needed to update their outlook in the weeks following the Fed’s last statement. The minutes are typically released three weeks after a Fed meeting.

The next downturn

A lot has occurred since the September 25-26 meeting, including a steep rise in bond yields and last week’s aforementioned market turmoil.

“[Last week’s market] declines won’t cause Powell to push the panic button,” Booth said. “If you look at the past few trading sessions, much of the declines have reversed.”

According to Nick Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research, Powell is looking to get interest rates back to normal and away from crisis-era levels. This leaves the central bank some dry powder in case the economy slows. After all, quantitative easing may not be enough to combat the next economic downturn.

Booth said the Fed’s most effective tool for boosting the economy is cutting interest rates.

“This is the same Jay Powell who was remiss to vote for the third round of QE in 2012 when he was a rookie,” Booth added. “I’m not sure he has the same faith in the efficacy of QE. He wants more ammunition to fight the next downturn.”

Scott Gamm is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @ScottGamm.