Dow up 600 points as Fed chief says interest rates near neutral

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Even before the speech, investors had grown skeptical that Fed officials will reach their own median projection for three hikes in 2019 against a backdrop of slowing growth and uncertainty over the U.S.'s ongoing trade dispute with China.

"We know that things often turn out to be quite different from even the most careful forecasts", Powell said at an Economic Club of NY luncheon on Wednesday.

The Fed's current pattern of raising rates gradually - roughly once a quarter over the past two years - is an effort to balance two risks. The report aims to put on public display twice a year what the central bank is watching and how those parts of the market are behaving.

"The hint from the Fed that they are closer to ending the current rate hike cycle caught the markets somewhat by surprise".

In his NY speech Wednesday, Powell did not dispute the widely held belief that the Fed will raise interest rates again in December, saying, "There is no preset policy" about tightening.

The Fed chairman also said Wednesday that while some corporate debt loads have reached riskier levels, "we do not see unsafe excesses in the stock market".

"They're making a mistake because I have a gut and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me", the president added. And I'm not blaming anybody, but I'm just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they're doing.

Speaking in the wake of another volatile market sell-off, the Fed chairman offered few clues on how much longer the central bank would continue tightening policy but he did say the policy rate, at 2-2.25pc, is now "just below" the broad range of estimates of neutral, which in September.

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"If there has been one certainty of late it is the market's ability to misinterpret Fed Chairman Powell".

The minutes also revealed that Fed officials talked about modifying language in their policy statement, which now states that it expects "further gradual increases" in interest rates.

"As always, our decisions on monetary policy will be created to keep the economy on track", he said.

Those trends, he said, were coinciding with inflation remaining "right on target" at the Fed's goal of 2 percent annual price increases.

The Fed still sees the economic outlook as relatively strong.

Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities LLC, told clients that he thought the markets overreacted to "the somewhat more dovish tone" of the Fed chairman's speech.

Minutes of the November meeting show policymakers ticking off a series of issues, including a tightening of financial conditions, global risks, "and some signs of slowing in interest-sensitive sectors", that had begun weighing on their view of the economy.

"My own assessment is that, while risks are above normal in some areas and below normal in others, overall financial stability vulnerabilities are at a moderate level", he said at an Economic Club of NY lunch.

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