Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.
It's not often that 29 of 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) rise on the same day, but that's the case today as Janet Yellen came before Congress for the first time as Federal Reserve chair.
There's little in the way of economic news, but the Dow is up nearly 1.4% in late trading and Yellen's testimony is a big reason why.
Yellen's calming effect on the market
Like Ben Bernanke before her, Yellen offered a smooth and measured delivery before Congress, putting complex economic and fiscal matters into context for those who wonder how she'll steer monetary policy. Early indications are that there won't be many changes to policy under Yellen's leadership, which isn't surprising given that the Fed veteran had a big role in developing the policy set by Bernanke.
There are a few takeaways from her testimony today and they're important to how the Fed will act over the next few years.
First, Yellen will continue to slowly pull back on the former $85 billion per month bond-buying program (now $65 billion) that was put in place to keep long-term rates low. Tapering, as it's known, was one of the fears of the market in 2013, but it hasn't had a big impact on rates as of late. Yellen's support for continued tapering gives some clarity for the long term.
Second, the 6.5% unemployment rate the Fed has targeted as its goal is now more of a soft goal than a point at which we should expect interest rates to rise. Yellen pointed out that underemployment is still very high and there are probably a fair number of people staying out of the labor market because they can't find suitable work. In other words, there's still lots of slack in the labor market, and until it tightens up the Fed will keep interest rates low.
Finally, we shouldn't expect any changes to monetary policy based on emerging markets, unemployment, or economic growth until at least March. That's when the Fed has its next policy meeting; by then there will be economic data that won't be heavily affected by weather, like the last two months have been. This is a measured approach from Yellen, leaving knee-jerk reactions to the market, which is good for the woman at the center of global monetary policy.