Fed Taper in Spotlight for the Dow Jones Today as Yellen Goes Back to Capitol Hill

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was up 52 points, to 16,250, as of 1:30 p.m. after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen testified before a Senate panel on the central bank's monetary policy. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) was up six points to 1,851.

The market has been waiting all week for Yellen's testimony before the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee. Many were dismayed to find out that the new Fed chief submitted the same prepared remarks that she used for her Feb. 11 testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

Yellen did veer away from her prepared remarks at one point to comment on the potential connection between the tough winter weather and a recent spate of bad economic data: "Since my appearance before the House committee, a number of data releases have pointed to softer spending than many analysts had expected. Part of that softness may reflect adverse weather conditions, but at this point it is difficult to discern how much."

In the question and answer session that followed, Yellen indicated that the Fed is moving away from a specific unemployment target given that the unemployment rate is so close to their original target of 6.5%. She said: "Of course, the unemployment rate is not a sufficient statistic to measure the health of the labor market. As we go to a fuller consideration of how the labor market is performing, we need to take all of those things into account." It should be noted that this is not a new development, as the specific wording related to the Fed taper in Federal Open Market Committee statements has noted (italics are mine) "the current exceptionally low target range for the federal funds rate of 0 to 1/4 percent will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent."

The key point to take away from all this is that it looks like nothing has changed to make the Fed slow the tapering of its long-term asset purchases. As long as further data doesn't show a significant slowing of the economy I fully expect the Fed to announce another $10 billion taper of its asset purchases at its next policy meeting on March 18 and 19.

What's an investor to do?
In any event, your investment strategy shouldn't be dependent on the statements of the Fed. For me, the story remains the same. The economy continues to slowly grow, the jobs market is getting healthier, and the market is still overvalued. I'm holding some extra cash, continuing to educate myself, find great companies, and invest for the long term.

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