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Stop expecting the Fed to surprise you

Once again, some economic experts were looking for the Federal Reserve to make a more "hawkish" statement about the prospects for rising inflation, and once again, the Fed demurred.

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, speaks at The Economic Club of New York on April 16, 2014.
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Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, speaks at The Economic Club of New York on April 16, 2014.

While acknowledging an economy that is growing moderately, the Fed did not remark on the recent advance in consumer prices, which grew at a 2.1 percent annual rate last month.

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Why not? The Fed's long-run (and yes I know that John Maynard Keynes said that in the long run, we're all dead), projection for both inflation and interest rates remains below those of the financial markets.

The Yellen Fed is preoccupied with long-term unemployment and excess slack in the labor market, not phantom inflation that has bounced recently based on either temporary factors, or calculation quirks in compiling the consumer-price index.

Indeed, the Fed's outlook for interest rates still suggests that rates will remain lower for longer than most currently expect.

Very few people believe, as I have argued recently, that the Fed is playing the long game, not small ball. The prospects of a wage/price spiral are remote. Factories are still operating below full capacity, and the economy is growing only moderately.

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In addition, the Fed also noted that the housing recovery remains subpar.

Unless and until all aspects of the economy are firing on all cylinders, I would not expect that big "surprise" from the Fed that everyone is waiting for … a pre-emptive strike on inflation through a premature hike in interest rates.

The Fed knows what that will do to the economy's growth prospects and it certainly is not willing to risk trading full employment for below trend inflation.

Commentary by Ron Insana, a CNBC and MSNBC contributor and the author of four books on Wall Street. He also delivers a daily podcast, "Insana Insights," and a long-form weekly version, both available on iTunes and at roninsana.com. Follow him on Twitter @rinsana.

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