FOMC Meetings, Schedule, and Statement Summaries

Why the Fed May Lower Its Benchmark Rate This Year

FOMC Chair Jerome Powell
••• Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images 

The Federal Open Market Committee holds eight meetings per year. It executes monetary policy for the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States.The FOMC reviews economic conditions each time it meets. Based on its review, it will decide whether to use expansionary or contractionary monetary policy. It issues forecasts at four of those eight meetings.

The FOMC also changes the fed funds rate. This is one of the most important leading indicators. It tells you which way the economy will go. If the rate is raised, expect slower growth. It will also raise the cost of home mortgages, loans, and credit cards. Take these five steps to protect yourself from fed rate hikes.

Even if the FOMC holds the rate steady, the meeting minutes give you a high-level analysis of the U.S. economy. As a result, the stock market reacts immediately to the FOMC meetings, announcements, and minutes. Here is the 2019 meeting schedule. It indicates which meetings issue updated forecasts. It is followed by summaries of each past meeting since June 2013.

2019 Meeting Schedule

January 29-30: The FOMC left the fed funds rate at 2.5%. It is satisfied with current rates of economic growth, inflation, and unemployment. The Fed probably won't raise rates until June at the earliest. That still gives it enough time to meet its goal of a 3% fed funds rate by the end of 2019. The Committee said it may not reduce its bond portfolio as rapidly as before. The Fed accumulated $4 trillion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities during quantitative easing. It's reduced that by around 10% since September 2017.

The Fed only held around $400 billion in its portfolio before the 2008 recession. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell announced he will hold a press conference after every meeting instead of every other meeting. Press Release.

March 19-20: The Committee left the fed funds rate at 2.5%. It didn't think growth and inflation were strong enough to warrant another increase. In fact, it no longer expects to raise the rate through 2021. That's a big change from its December meeting. At that time, it forecast it would raise the rate to 3% in 2019. Press Release. Forecast.

April 30 - May 1: The Fed will keep rates at current levels. It said employment and economic growth was strong, although inflation was a little below its 2% target. Press Release.

MOST RECENT MEETING June 18-19: The Committee agreed to keep the rate unchanged since growth is strong and unemployment is low. It may cut the rate in July if global growth slows and inflation remains below the Fed's target. Press Release. Forecast. The U.S. Economic Outlook provides an analysis of the forecast.

  • July 30-31.
  • September 17-18. Forecast.
  • October 29-30.
  • December 10-11. Forecast.

2018 Meeting Summaries

January 30-31: The Committee left the fed funds rate at 1.5%. It will allow $12 billion of Treasury securities to mature each month without replacing them. It will do the same with $8 billion of mortgage-backed securities. The FOMC issued its Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy, which confirmed its expectations. It was Janet Yellen's last meeting as Fed Chair. Press Release.

March 20-21: The Committee raised the fed funds rate to 1.75%. This was the first meeting chaired by President Trump's appointee, Jerome Powell. He is expected to continue recent Fed policy since he's been a Fed Board member since 2012. Press ReleaseForecast

May 1-2: The Committee kept the rate at 1.75%. It was encouraged by good employment numbers and stable economic growth. The market expected the Fed to raise the rate two more times in 2018. Inflation was expected to accelerate and meet the Fed's 2% target in 2018. Here's why a little inflation is good. The Fed will continue to wind down the $4 trillion in holdings it acquired during quantitative easing. 

June 12-13: The FOMC raised the fed funds rate to 2%. It is encouraged by stable economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near its 2% target. Press ReleaseForecast

July 31-August 1: The Fed kept its benchmark rate at 2%. It acknowledged that the economy is strong and inflation is at its target rate. Press Release.

September 25-26: The Committee raised the rate to 2.25%. Strong economic growth is allowing the Fed to normalize interest rates. It expects to raise the rate again in December. Press Release. Forecast.

November 7-8: A strong economy allowed the Fed to keep the rate at 2.25%. It will probably raise rates in December, despite opposition from President Trump. Members also discussed a review of how the committee "formulates, conducts, and communicates monetary policy." Press Release.

December 18-19: The Committee raised the rate to 2.5%. Strong job gains and household spending encouraged the Fed to continue normalizing interest rates. As long as the data looks robust, it expects to raise rates to 3% in 2019. Press Release. Forecast.

2017 Summaries

January 31-February 1: The FOMC kept the fed funds rate at 0.75%. It expected to raise the rate to its goal of 2% in 2017. It would only do so if unemployment remained low and inflation approached its 2% goal. The Fed will maintain its current open market operations policies. The Fed said it would roll over its $4 trillion worth of securities holdings until the fed funds rate normalizes at 2%. Press Release

March 14-15: The Committee raised the fed funds rate to 1%. Members were confident that the economy would continue to strengthen. Inflation was close enough to the Fed's target of 2%. Press Release. Forecast

May 2-3: The Fed kept the fed funds rate at 1%. It said that economic growth was a little slow in the first quarter. It expected growth to resume a faster pace in the future. Press Release.

June 13-14: The Committee raised the fed funds rate a quarter point to 1.25%. It said the economy and employment were growing steadily. Core inflation was just under the Fed's 2% target. 

The Fed also outlined how it will begin reducing the $4.5 trillion in securities it holds on its balance sheet. It acquired them during quantitative easing. It will allow $6 billion of Treasurys to mature each month without replacing them. Each month it will allow another $6 billion to mature until it's retiring $30 billion a month. The Fed will follow a similar process with its holdings of mortgage-backed securities. It won't replace an incremental $4 billion a month until it retires $20 billion.

This change won't occur until the fed funds rate reaches 2%. Press Release. Forecast

July 25-26: The Committee kept the fed funds rate at 1.25%. Members are encouraged by steady economic growth. They didn't need to raise in July since they just raised the rate in June. Some members would like to see inflation closer to the 2% target before raising again. Others want to hold the course to prevent financial instability. All members agree that the Fed should start reducing its Treasury holdings soon. Press Release.

September 19-20: The FOMC maintained the fed funds rate at 1.25%. It will begin reducing its holdings of Treasury securities in October. It will use the process outlined in its June meeting. Press Release. Forecast

October 31-November 1: The Committee kept the fed funds rate at 1.25%. It would like to see inflation closer to its 2% target. It will continue reducing holdings of Treasury securities as they mature. Press Release.

December 12-13: The Committee raised the fed funds rate to 1.5%. It will continue to reduce its holdings of Treasury securities as they mature. Press Release. Forecast

2016 Summaries

January 26-27, 2016: The Committee kept the fed funds rate at 0.5%. The Fed expects to raise rates three more times, at a quarter point each time, in 2016. Press release.

March 15-16: The FOMC kept interest rates the same. It acknowledged that low oil and gas prices were keeping overall inflation below its target. Many members worried about weak exports and business spending. The FOMC announced that it would raise rates "gradually," and that the fed funds rate would remain below the normal 2% rate "for some time." Press releaseForecast

April 26-27: All but one member voted to keep the fed funds rate the same. Kansas City Bank President Esther George voted to raise the rate to 0.75%. The Committee was optimistic about economic growth, consumer confidence, and job creation. It worried about weak exports, consumer spending, and business investment. It expects inflation to rise to its 2% target "in the medium term." It expected the fed funds rate will remain low "for some time." Once it began to raise rates, it would do so "gradually." Press Release.

June 14-16: All members voted against raising rates. The stock market rose briefly in reaction. The Committee said that both job growth and inflation were weaker than expected. The Fed forecast 2% growth in 2016. Its prior forecast was 2.2%. It predicted higher inflation, at 1.4% instead of its previous forecast of 1.2%. Press ReleaseForecast.

July 26-27: The FOMC kept the fed funds rate at 0.5%. It was confident about raising them this fall, possibly in September. Members were less worried about the negative impacts of Brexit, low oil prices and China's economic growth. They were pleased to see a stronger job market and improvements in retail sales. Press Release.

September 20-21: The FOMC kept the rate at 0.5%. Three members voted to raise it. But other members were concerned that the core inflation rate was too far below its target rate of 2%. Members were encouraged by healthy economic growth and a strong jobs market. Press Release. Forecast

November 1-2: The strong October jobs report encouraged the FOMC. But it did not raise rates. Inflation remained below the Committee's 2% target. Two members voted to raise the rate. If growth remained strong, the Committee would be likely to raise rates in December. Press Release

December 13-14: The FOMC raised the fed funds rate by a quarter point to 0.75%. It was satisfied with the rate of economic growth and expected inflation to reach its 2% target in 2017. Some Committee members were concerned that continued low-interest rates would create a liquidity trap. Press Release. Forecast.  

2015 Summaries

January 27-28: The FOMC said it would raise the fed funds rate in six months. It was confident the U.S. economy would continue to grow strongly, despite weakness in foreign markets. It expected inflation to head back toward its 2% target rates once oil prices returned to normal. Press Release.

March 17-18: The Committee wanted to see employment remain strong and inflation rise a little higher before raising the rate. It did not rule out raising it in June if conditions allowed. Press ReleaseForecast.

April 28-29: The FOMC would like to see economic growth stronger before announcing a rate increase. If growth strengthened by the June meeting, the Committee could raise it as soon as July. But most analysts expected it to occur in December or later. The FOMC did say that it expected inflation, and expectations of inflation, to approach its target "in the medium term." Press Release.

June 16-17: Even though the Committee would prefer the fed funds rate to return to a normal 2-3% range, it seemed more worried about jeopardizing the U.S. recovery by raising rates too soon. So, it continued to signal a rate increase might be possible three to six months out. It did not comment on asset bubbles in the bond market. It took no responsibility for the strength of the dollar. The Committee also lowered its forecast for inflation. Press ReleaseForecast

July 28-29: The FOMC gave its most upbeat assessment of the economy in a long time, saying growth is "moderate" and that it only needed to see "some further improvement" in employment. The June unemployment rate is 5.3%, well below the Committee's previously-stated target of 7%. That made July's employment report a crucial indicator as to whether the FOMC would raise rates in September. Its biggest concern was that inflation was "only" 1.7%, just below its 2% target. Press Release.

September 16-17: The FOMC left rates at current low levels. It said the economy was not strong enough to raise them yet. The Committee expressed concern over low exports and weak inflation. The strong dollar caused both by making exports expensive and imports cheap. The FOMC announced it will keep the rate lower than the normal 2% even after employment and inflation are at a healthy range. Press ReleaseForecast

October 27-28: The FOMC stated the economy was in a healthy growth range, but it would like to see higher inflation before it raised rates. It said it might raise rates in December. Press Release.

December 15-16: The FOMC raised the fed funds rate a quarter point, to 0.5%. It promised to continue raising rates in 2016, as long as the economy continued to improve. It raised the discount rate by a quarter point to 1%. It raised the interest rate paid on excess and required reserves by a quarter point to 0.5%. Press ReleaseForecast

2014 Summaries

January 28-29: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's last FOMC meeting ended, not with a bang, but a taper. After creating an alphabet soup of programs to fight the 2008 financial crisis, Chairman Bernanke's final action to further reduce quantitative easing was a bit of a let-down. The Fed promised to reduce its purchases of long-term Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities by another $10 billion a month. That meant it would only buy $65 billion a month, instead of $85 billion. Press Release.

March 18-19: Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's first news conference. The Fed could raise the fed funds rate as soon as six months after the end of QE. The Dow immediately dropped 200 points. Why? Traders feared higher interest rates because it made capital more expensive, which could slow economic growth. But traders overreacted. First, the FOMC said it would taper another $10 billion a month from its purchases of Treasury notes. The Committee wouldn't start raising rates until July 2015 at the earliest.

That mid-2015 timeframe was consistent with what it had said earlier. In addition, the FOMC would no longer use an unemployment rate of 6.5% to determine if unemployment was low enough. The unemployment rate was already 6.7% and headed lower. But the jobs situation was not robust. Yellen talked about the so-called real unemployment rate, which was 12.6%. It included 7.2 million part-time workers who would prefer a full-time job but couldn't get one. She said that number was too high. It reflected an unemployment situation that was worse than the 6.7% rate indicates.

April 29-30: Economic growth looked mildly positive, so the Fed reduced its purchases of Treasurys to $25 billion a month. It reduced its purchases of mortgage-backed securities to $20 billion a month. Press release.

June 17-18: The Fed cut another $10 billion from its purchases of Treasurys and mortgages. The Fed was buying $20 billion in U.S. Treasurys and $15 billion in mortgage-backed securities. Its outlook on the economy is conservatively positive. It will keep the fed funds rate at its current near-zero level "for a considerable time" after it finally ends QE, especially if the core inflation rate remained below 2%. It was just at 2%. Press Release. Forecast

July 29-30: The Fed reduced its QE bond purchases by another $10 billion a month. It will buy $15 billion in Treasury bonds and $10 billion in MBS. It's on schedule to wind up QE by October. The Fed funds rate will stay at zero% "a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends." The Fed is fairly happy with economic performance, but would like the employment picture to be better. Press Release.

September 16-17: Fortunately, the FOMC remained on course. The Fed reduced its QE bond purchases by another $10 billion, buying $10 billion in Treasury bonds and $5 billion in MBS. It would end the program in October. It wouldn't raise the fed funds rate until "considerable time" had passed, and only if the economy was strong enough. Most analysts agreed this meant mid-2015. Press Release. Forecast.

October 28-29: As expected, the FOMC ended its QE bond purchases. It has almost doubled its holdings of securities, mostly Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. Its holdings rose to $4.482 trillion from $2.825 trillion in 2008. It would continue purchasing new securities to replace its holdings but wouldn’t increase its holdings. Eventually, once it raised the fed funds rate to 2%, it would gradually reduce its holdings by not replacing them when they matured. Press Release.

December 16-17: The Fed said it is prepared to raise rates only when the economy improves enough to warrant it. Most members expect this will happen sometime in the middle of 2015, although there is a wide divergence of opinions among members. It doesn't expect it to happen within the next few meetings. Press Release. Forecast

2013 Summaries of Key Meetings

June 18-19: The FOMC announced the QE taper could begin later in 2013. Bond investors panicked, sending yields up a point. Press Release. Forecast.

September 17-18: The FOMC announced the continuation of QE due to a lackluster economy. Press Release. Forecast.

December 17-18: The Fed will begin tapering QE in January. This means the Fed will cut back on its purchases of long-term Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities. Instead of $85 billion, it will buy $75 billion a month until at least the March 18-19, 2014, meeting. It could taper even more if three key indicators exceed the Fed's targets of: 

  • 7% for the unemployment rate. It hit 7% in November 2014.
  • 2-3% for gross domestic product growth. GDP reached 3.6% in the third quarter 2014.
  • 2% core inflation rate. It fell to 1.7% in October 2014.
  • The fed funds rate and the discount rate would remain between zero and 0.25% until 2015 and below 2% through 2016. 

This was Bernanke's last press conference. He congratulated Congress on passing a budget. That indicated a renewed sense of cooperation that could boost confidence in the economy. He added that austerity measures, such as sequestration, forced the government to shed 600,000 jobs in four years. In the prior recovery, the economy added 400,000 jobs during the same time period. Press Release. Forecast.