The Federal Reserve is expected to leave interest rates unchanged at its meeting this week, and Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell is expected to go out of his way to not rock financial markets.
Powell has made some unfortunate missteps that have caused violent market reactions. Some Fed watchers expect he will tiptoe through his press briefing Wednesday afternoon, trying not to say anything that would change the Fed's message that it is patient and not in a rush to raise rates.
The Fed's two-day meeting begins Tuesday, and it will end with a 2 p.m. ET statement Wednesday followed by a press briefing by Powell.
"I'm betting this is a press conference he'd rather not have. It's all risk, no return," said Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "They've calmed the markets."
Harris said Powell and other Fed officials have successfully pushed back against criticism that they were ignoring the warning from the markets about economic weakness. "They made it clear they do pay attention to the markets and business leaders, and they're not just fixated on hard data," said Harris.
At the briefing after the December meeting, Powell described the Fed's program to wind down its balance sheet as being on "autopilot." That comment unnerved investors, and Powell took pains to explain several weeks later that the program was set up to run int the background as the Fed used its rate policy as its foremost tool.