Why Investors Care
The Fed determines interest rate policy at FOMC meetings. These occur roughly every six weeks and are the single most influential event for the markets. For weeks in advance, market participants speculate about the possibility of an interest rate change at these meetings. If the outcome is different from expectations, the impact on the markets can be dramatic and far-reaching.
The interest rate set by the Fed, the federal funds rate, serves as a benchmark for all other rates. A change in the fed funds rate, the lending rate banks charge each other for the use of overnight funds, translates directly through to all other interest rates from Treasury bonds to mortgage loans. It also changes the dynamics of competition for investor dollars. When bonds yield 5 percent, they will attract more money away from stocks than when they only yield 3 percent.
The level of interest rates affects the economy. Higher interest rates tend to slow economic activity; lower interest rates stimulate economic activity. Either way, interest rates influence the sales environment. In the consumer sector, fewer homes or cars will be purchased when interest rates rise. Furthermore, interest rate costs are a significant factor for many businesses, particularly for companies with high debt loads or who have to finance high inventory levels. This interest cost has a direct impact on corporate profits. The bottom line is that higher interest rates are bearish for the stock market, while lower interest rates are bullish.
The Fed also began quantitative easing during the past recession and extended its bond purchases to late 2014. In late 2015, the Fed began to raise its federal funds target.
Econoday lists a separate "FOMC Meeting Begins" only for the first day of two-day policy meetings. Otherwise, "FOMC Meeting Announcement" serves the same purpose for one-day FOMC meetings since the announcement takes place just after the meeting concludes.
Eight times a year.