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Fed holds steady on interest rates—here's what experts are watching

Araceli Crescencio
Six experts on Fed's decision to leave interest rates unchanged

No Fed rate cuts for now.

The Federal Reserve decided to keep interest rates steady on Wednesday but opened the door for potential rate cuts later this year if economic activity weakens. The committee said it continues to see "sustained" economic expansion but that "uncertainties about [its] outlook have increased."

With Wall Street traders pricing in a 100% chance of at least one July rate cut, experts were largely split on the move.

Here are three of their takes on what comes next for the market:

Alicia Levine, chief strategist at BNY Mellon, said the decision to leave interest rates unchanged is a good sign for the market:

"So I'd say that July is on the table here, and I think that it's very reasonable to think there's two cuts this year with this change in the dot plot. It's very clear that the Fed is really looking to ensure that the expansion continues and it's positive for the market. This is what the market needed to see. The rates market is pricing this in, so this is all in sync, so it's a good statement for the market."

J.P. Morgan Funds Chief Strategist David Kelly said this may seem like a good decision for now but there could still be danger ahead:

"I think the stock market may like this in the short run, but I think we're in some dangerous territory here. I mean, first of all, two wrongs don't make a right, and it's inappropriate to have an overly easy monetary policy to enable an overly aggressive trade policy. … I think the problem is the Fed is taking the position that monetary policy should be independent, and therefore they will not tell the administration what to do if the administration would please stop telling them what to do. Now, … one side is keeping that agreement, but the danger here is, … if they cut in July, everybody's going to expect them to cut again. Eighty-one percent of the time, when the Fed cuts, they cut again within the next six months. So, people will just build in a series of rate cuts, and as rates fall, people will expect, 'Well, why don't I wait a while here [and] see if I can borrow at cheaper rates?' It doesn't stimulate the economy. So, there's a danger that they will actually make things worse by cutting rates in this environment."

John Bellows, portfolio manager and research analyst at Western Asset, said Wednesday's Fed decision prepared the groundwork for future policy:

"I actually think that it was notable they didn't commit to [a] July [cut]. There's nothing in here about a next meeting. There's nothing in here about the G-20. Of course, they're going to leave that out. So, I think they're keeping their options open, and I think that is appropriate. They don't want to be seen as doing anything that's going to interact with trade policy at the ex ante. Maybe after the fact they might, but I don't think they want to do that ex ante. The other thing I would focus on here is I do think we are seeing that movement towards concern about inflation. You know, they've been talking, up to now, about market expectations being low, but now they're saying … outright they have declined. That's a change. That's something to focus on, and, again I think that's the way that they're going to justify a cut. They're never going to say that 'We're cutting because trade policy got too aggressive.' … But they will say, and I do think this is likely, they will say, 'Inflation's too low, we need to get it higher, and therefore we're going to use policy.' So, what you're seeing today is … the careful laying of the groundwork. They don't want to get caught up in the trade dispute. They don't want to get caught up in this meeting or that meeting. But they are carefully laying the groundwork for easing policy … later this year. I think that's bond positive, I think that's equity positive, and we'll see how this plays out. But I think that's what they're doing here, is they're laying that groundwork."