The Federal Reserve is standing pat on interest rates for the time being, but analysts predict another increase after the November elections.
Stocks, bonds and the dollar all dropped sharply immediately following the midafternoon announcement Tuesday, but they recovered most of the losses later in the day."The market is off on a tangent, trying to read too much into whether the Fed does or does not tighten in any one month," said David Wyss, chief financial economist at DRI-McGraw Hill Inc. "Most people were not expecting the Fed to move, and they didn't move, so nobody should have been shocked."
The central bank has increased interest rates five times this year, including an Aug. 16 move that pushed both the federal funds rate and the discount rate up by one-half percentage point, to 4.75 percent and 4 percent respectively.
Meanwhile, White House officials expressed relief that the Fed did not increase rates.
White House press secretary Dee Dee myers told reporters "we think there is very little inflationary pressure in the economy. The fundamentals are sound." She said President Clinton is "comfortable" with the current rates.
Many economists expect the Fed to hike rates by another half-point by Nov. 15, the date of its next Federal Open Market Committee meeting, and say the committee may well have given Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan authority to raise rates sooner on his own if economic data warrant.
"The Fed would rather be out of sight and out of mind at election time," said Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Norwest Corp. in Minneapolis.
Eugene J. Sherman, research director at M.A. Schapiro & Co. in New York, said that the fact that Tuesday's meeting lasted four hours - one hour longer than normal - may indicate some dissension on the FOMC over the proper course for policy.
He said he suspected some FOMC members argued for an immediate rate hike and predicted that a half-point rate increase in November will be the last for this year. But he says rates will be raised further next year as inflationary pressures continued to rise.