Federal Reserve

Fed being a little ‘ham-handed’ by omitting this from statement, expert says

Key Points
  • The Federal Reserve kept rates the same and didn't address its balance sheet in its statement Wednesday.
  • Scott Minerd was hoping the Fed would provide a stronger indication about when it was going to start reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet.
  • That doesn't change his expectation on rates, but does leave him feeling the Fed is being a little ham-handed, he said.
Fed leaves rates, balance sheet policy unchanged

The Federal Reserve announced Wednesday it was not raising interest rates, but it was what the central bank didn't say that disappointed investment expert Scott Minerd.

He was hoping the Fed would provide a stronger indication about when it was going to start reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet. Instead, it didn't address the issue.

"What I was expecting them to do was to tee up the idea and get it more firm in people's mind that there is an announcement coming and it's going to come this year," the global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners said in an interview with CNBC's "Power Lunch."

On Wednesday, the Federal Open Market Committee unanimously agreed to keep its benchmark rate target at 0.75 percent to 1 percent. While it noted that economic activity has slowed, it believes the weakness won't last.

Fed officials also gave no indication on Wednesday if they would alter their intention to raise rates in the future. In March, they indicated two more hikes were on the way this year.

Janet Yellen
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Minerd said the absence of the balance sheet issue doesn't change his expectation on rate hikes.

However, "it does leave me with the feeling that they are being a little ham-handed here," he added.

Consensus is that the central bank will only raise rates when it has a news conference scheduled for after the meeting, known as a live meeting, and there are only three of those gatherings left this year. Minerd believes the Fed will also need to address the reduction in its balance sheet, which stores its bond portfolio, in a live meeting.

Officials have indicated that the Fed will change its policy of reinvesting proceeds from its holdings, a move they say would be tantamount to a series of interest rate hikes.

"They're not going to use two policy tools at the same meeting because they're going to want to see how the market responds. And so I think they have to set up some expectation that they're going to use a meeting this year to lay this out," Minerd said.

However, David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds, doesn't see any modifications in the balance sheet announced until the end of the year, when the Fed does most of its major changes.

"When it comes to the balance sheet, they've got some explaining to do. There's a lot of technicalities around the balance sheet and I think they want to explain that carefully" at a news conference, he told "Power Lunch."

— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.