Fed’s Goolsbee says he was ‘confused’ by last week’s market reaction

Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee: We've seen significant improvement on the inflation front

A Federal Reserve official said Monday that the market may have misunderstood the central bank’s intended message last week after stocks and bonds rallied sharply.

The Fed voted last week to hold rates steady once again, and its updated projections showed an expectation of three rate cuts in 2024. That caused a rally in stocks and bonds, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumping to a record high.

“It’s not what you say, or what the chair says. It’s what did they hear, and what did they want to hear,” said Chicago Fed President Austan Goolsbee said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “I was confused a bit — was the market just imputing, here’s what we want them to be saying?”

The Dow hit a record high last week.

The Fed president also pushed back against the idea that the Fed is actively planning on a series of rate cuts.

“We don’t debate specific policies, speculatively, about the future. We vote on that meeting,” he said.

Trading in the options market implies that traders see 3.75% to 4.00% as the most likely range for the Fed’s benchmark rate at the end of 2024, according to the CME FedWatch Tool. That would be six quarter-point cuts below the current Fed funds rate, or double what was forecast in the central bank’s summary of economic projections.

Goolsbee did not explicitly say that the market pricing was wrong, but did highlight this difference.

“The market expectation of the number of rate cuts is greater than what the SEP projection is,” Goolsbee said.

Goolsbee is not the only Fed official who has downplayed the meeting in the wake of the market rally. New York Fed President John Williams said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday that “we aren’t really talking about rate cuts right now.”

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