The Fed is widely expected to keep the benchmark rate at 5.25%


The Fed is widely expected to keep the benchmark rate steady at 5.25 percent, as it has done since last summer, but the policy statement it releases Thursday will be parsed for clues about future moves.

After weeks of stock market turbulence caused by soaring bond yields, Wall Street will now be able to gauge the chance of an interest rate hike straight from the source: the Federal Reserve.

The central bank's Federal Open Market Committee meets Wednesday and Thursday to discuss interest rates. The Fed is widely expected to keep the benchmark rate steady at 5.25 percent, as it has done since last summer, but the policy statement it releases Thursday will be parsed for clues about future moves.

For months, policy makers have stated they expect the economy to recover, and that curbing costs is their primary concern in light of uncomfortably high inflation. Any change in that stance could rile the stock market.

Other data that could help investors decide whether inflation is rising at a worrisome pace is the Commerce Department's Friday report on personal income and spending, which includes a reading on core personal consumption expenditures _ or core PCE inflation. The year-over-year PCE figure is the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, and it is expected to have risen to 2.1 percent in May from 2.0 percent in April, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed Friday by Thomson Financial.

Personal income is expected to have risen 0.6 percent in May, up from a decline of 0.1 percent in April, and spending is expected to have increased 0.6 percent, slightly higher than the 0.5 percent rise in April.

Major indexes fell last week, with the Dow Jones industrials down 2.1 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 index down 2 percent and the Nasdaq composite index off 1.4 percent.


Associated Press
6/24/2007 4:28:27 PM