The dicey situation in Greece may provide the Federal Reserve with yet another reason to hold off on hiking rates.
The minutes of the Fed's June meeting, released on Wednesday afternoon, showed that the debt crisis in Greece unmistakably weighed on policymakers' minds.
In the discussion of risks to the Fed's economic projections, the minutes note that "several mentioned their uncertainty about whether Greece and its official creditors would reach an agreement."
The impact on financial markets could also be sharp, according to committee members: "Many participants expressed concern that a failure of Greece and its official creditors to resolve their difference could result in disruptions in financial markets in the euro area, with possible spillover effects on the United States."
Of course, the reason the Fed's words are watched so closely is not that the Federal Open Market Committee is composed of rock-star prognosticators; rather, it is because their views on markets and the economy impact their policy decisions. And if worries about Greece are weighing heavily on the Fed, then a prolonged debt crisis could keep the Fed from raising its key federal funds rate target off of crisis levels.
Since that means short-term bonds would continue to be unattractive, it would be good news indeed for so-called "risk assets" such as equities.
"The Fed has expressed that it has a global mandate, and isn't just focused on the U.S.," commented Dennis Davitt, an options trader with Harvest Volatility Advisors. "If the Fed is not raising rates, it is giving the market a synthetic put," meaning that it is providing support for stocks.
Boris Schlossberg, a currency trader with BK Asset Management, says the Fed is keeping a close watch on monetary policy history.
"I definitely think Greece is weighing on them, because the Fed does not want to do the one thing they're terribly afraid of, which is [what it did in] 1938—tighten policy and push the economy right back into a recession," Schlossberg told CNBC's "Trading Nation" on Wednesday.
The Fed indeed tightened policy starting in 1937, which some economists blame for a consequent economic slowdown, though its cause is still debated.
"I think they're going to really be much more cautious than everybody thinks they are and pretty much hold off until they're absolutely certain the conditions in the global economy have stabilized," Schlossberg said.
"I definitely think the September rate hike is pretty much off the table given what's going on right now and probably at the very, very least they're going to push it out until December."
Fed funds futures are now implying just a 9 percent chance of a September rate hike, according to the CME Group's Fed Watch tool.
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