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The News From Jackson Hole: It's All About Jobs

At the annual summit in Wyoming, the Fed said any rate hikes will depend on what happens with the labor market. Here's why that's good news for businesses.
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It's sometimes hard to decipher what Janet Yellen is talking about when she makes her oracular statements from her bench at the Federal Reserve Bank, where she serves as chairwoman. 

And today's keynote from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where central bankers gathered for an annual summit on monetary policy was no exception. But cutting through her fairly nuanced speech today, there's actually a lot for small business owners to cheer about. 

Essentially, Yellen said that the U.S. economy is in a steady recovery mode. And it's strong enough for the Federal Reserve to end its quantitative easing program, which has pumped billions of dollars into the economy through bond purchases over the past few years.  Instead, the Fed will now focus more intently on developments in the labor market, looking for signs of inflation. Here's what Yellen had to say about that:

With the economy getting closer to our objectives, the FOMC's emphasis is naturally shifting to questions about the degree of remaining [labor market] slack, how quickly that slack is likely to be taken up, and thereby to the question of under what conditions we should begin dialing back our extraordinary accommodation. 

It's Yellen's fairly subtle way of saying not to expect interest rate hikes any time soon. At least not until the job market improves substantially, which could be a lever for inflation.

And that may not be until well into 2015, some financial experts say.

"While the economy continues to improve, the beginning of interest rates hikes will be dependent on progress in the labor market and the speed by which that happens," says Drew Nordlicht partner and managing director of HighTower Advisors in San Diego.

So far this year, strength in the labor market has been pretty muted, Nordlicht says, with wage growth running at around 2 percent for the year. That's about half the wage growth experienced during more expansive economic periods in the U.S., and about on par with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth--a measure of the total of goods and services produced by the economy--this year. In other words, inflation does not appear to be anywhere on the horizon. 

That's what Yellen meant this morning when she hinted about adjusting the Federal Funds Rate, the benchmark by which banks set their own lending rates, which has been at close to 0 percent since the Great Recession:

If progress in the labor market continues to be more rapid than anticipated by the Committee or if inflation moves up more rapidly than anticipated...then increases in the federal funds rate target could come sooner than the Committee currently expects and could be more rapid thereafter.

In the meantime, you can expect the Fed to stay its course, which may enable you to grow in a favorable environment, certainly for hiring, but also for financing your business operations.

"For small businesses borrowers, you are still looking at having very low interest rates for the foreseeable furture," Nordlicht says. "And hopefully we will see a continuation of the recent trend, which is a loosening of credit standards, allowing banks to lend to small businessses on a more progessive basis."

 

 

IMAGE: Gallery Stock
Last updated: Aug 22, 2014

JEREMY QUITTNER | Staff Writer | Staff Writer, Inc. and Inc.com

Jeremy Quittner is a staff writer for Inc. magazine and Inc.com. He previously covered technology for American Banker and entrepreneurship for BusinessWeek.




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