The Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) just wrapped up its October policy meeting, and as expected, it cut interest rates yet again. While this wasn't a surprise, the FOMC's statement and the Fed chairman's language gave investors important clues about the future path of interest rates.
With that in mind, here's a rundown of the key points from the October FOMC meeting, and what could be in store.
Another rate cut
First off, the FOMC, which is the policymaking arm of the Federal Reserve, decided to cut the federal funds rate by 25 basis points to a target range of 1.50% to 1.75%. This is the third rate cut in 2019, so the benchmark rate is now 75 basis points (0.75 percentage points) lower than at the start of the year.
But it's important to emphasize that this was a virtual certainty going into the meeting. Futures markets were pricing in a 96% chance that this rate cut would happen, so it's not a surprise that the stock market didn't react one way or the other. Only two of the 10 voting FOMC members disagreed with the rate cut, preferring to keep the federal funds rate where it was.
The Fed is changing its tone
The FOMC statement that is issued along with the interest rate decision is one of the most closely watched and carefully worded documents in all of finance. And the language in the October statement had a few slight tweaks. For one thing, the Fed now says that business investment and exports have "remained weak," rather than saying "have weakened."
Most notably, the language saying that the FOMC will act "to sustain the expansion" has been removed. The statement now simply says that the committee will monitor economic information and will use that to assess the "appropriate path of the target range for the federal funds rate."
This is significant because the phrase about sustaining the expansion was largely interpreted as the FOMC saying that further rate cuts would likely be necessary. So, the change could signal that the FOMC is finished cutting rates for the time being.
In Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's press conference, he clarified this point, saying that the FOMC members "see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate."
It's important to note that this policy shift was also widely expected. Markets have been pricing in only a small chance of another rate cut at the December FOMC meeting.
The bottom line for investors: Stay tuned
In a nutshell, there wasn't a whole lot that surprised the market in the FOMC's interest rate decision or its accompanying statement. Whether further rate cuts will occur will be driven by economic data that emerges between now and future meetings, so the bottom line is that while investors got the rate cut they had been looking for, it appears that the Fed is done cutting rates -- at least for now.