In the history of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, a 16th seed has never, ever, beaten a one seed...until this year. But, on Friday, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) beat the University of Virginia – not just a number one seed, but the top ranked team in the USA.
We don't expect the unexpected, however, when the Federal Reserve finishes its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday. Based on the federal funds futures market, there is a 100% chance that the Fed will boost the federal funds rate by 25 basis points, to a new range of 1.5% to 1.75%.
The markets are even giving a roughly 20% chance that the Fed raises rates 50 basis points. That's better odds than UMBC had, but we suspect it's highly unlikely given that this is Jerome Powell's first meeting as Fed chief.
The rate hike itself is not worrisome. It's expected and, at 1.75%, the federal funds rate is still below inflation and the growth rate for nominal GDP. There are also still more than $2 trillion in excess bank reserves in the system. The Fed is a very long way from being tight.
Instead, investors should focus on how the Fed changes its forecast of what's in store for the economy and the likely path of short-term interest rates over the next few years.
Back in December, the last time the Fed released projections on interest rates and the economy, only some of the policymakers at the Fed had incorporated the tax cuts into their forecasts. Prior to the tax cut, the median forecast from Fed officials expected real GDP growth of 2.5% in 2018 and 2.1% in 2019. Now that the tax cut is law, we expect Fed forecasters to move those estimates noticeably higher, to near 3% growth for 2018 and 2019, which should lower unemployment forecasts.
In December, the median Fed forecast was that the jobless rate would reach 3.9% in the last quarter of 2018 and remain there in 2019 before heading back to 4.6% in following years.