By Joe Carroll, Vice President, Sales and Marketing
Short-term Interest Rates: The Dot Plot Explained
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is a twelve member committee consisting of members of the Federal Reserve Board and regional Reserve Bank presidents. The FOMC has eight regularly scheduled meetings throughout the year to discuss and assess economic and financial conditions, monetary policy, and risks to its long-run goals of price stability and sustainable economic growth.
One aspect of these meetings which garners a lot of attention is the dot plot. The dot plot is a visual representation of where each member of the FOMC thinks the federal funds rate should be at the end of each of the next three years and into the future (long run). While the dot plot is not an official tool of the FOMC, it does provide some insight as to what various members of the FOMC are thinking in regards to the federal funds rate.
Here is a picture of the March 18th FOMC meeting dot plot chart.
Each dot represents where individual members of the FOMC think the federal funds rate should be at the end of the year given current economic information. As seen above, the views on where the federal funds rate will be in the future varies quite a bit within the FOMC. For example, in 2016 the majority of the FOMC believes that the federal funds rate should be between 1.5% and 2.0%. There are a few members who think the rate should be much higher or lower than the consensus at the end of 2016.
Further examination of the dot plot provides even more insight into the thought process of the FOMC. The chart below shows the past three dot plot assessments along with the respective Fed Funds Futures contracts. The Fed Funds Futures contracts (seen in red) represent how the market is pricing the federal funds rate in the future. Noticeably, the market is not quite as optimistic as the FOMC. In addition to lower market expectations of the federal funds rate, it is clear that all the members of the FOMC have reduced their outlook for future interest rate levels.
The dot plot can be an insightful and useful tool when examining the federal funds rate and future projections. With recent changes in the FOMC language, we are expecting an increase in the federal funds rate sometime in 2015. Short-term interest rates have been at record lows for years. An increase in interest rates, and therefore interest income can mean a significant change for many local governments. The time for budgeting zero interest income may be coming to an end! Be sure to keep an eye out for the next dot plot and what it means to you.
Charts Sourced from Bloomberg