The Coming Fed Surprise

The Coming Fed Surprise

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

The market is not doing much as we await the policy statement from the Federal Open Market Committee at 2 p.m. EST. Just before 1:30 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down six points to 15,868. The S&P 500 was down six points to 1,775.

The Federal Reserve has pursued two policies to stimulate the economy and the jobs market. The first is the zero interest rate policy in which the Fed lets banks borrow from it at rates now targeted between 0% and 0.25%. The second policy is quantitative easing through the Fed's monthly $85 billion purchases of long-term assets, split between $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities and $45 billion worth of long-term Treasuries.

The Federal Open Market Committee has made it clear that the zero interest rate policy will continue for a few years no matter what other actions the central bank takes. Federal Reserve members have been debating whether to continue the second program and also other possible actions the bank could take. This is where investors could be surprised, if the Fed takes other actions besides a decision on whether to taper.

Possible actions that have been hinted at:

-- Lowering the publicly stated unemployment target from 6.5% to 5.5% with regard to the timeline for raising interest rates.

-- Cutting the interest on excess reserves for banks from 0.25% to make it effectively 0% once you include the FDIC assessment rate, or cutting it to 0% to make it effectively negative.

-- Changing forward guidance to give more specific information as to when the Fed will taper or when the federal funds rate will be raised.

-- No longer reinvesting earnings and principal payments from its holdings.

Whatever the Fed is planning, we'll know in about 30 minutes.

What's an investor to do?

Your investment strategy shouldn't be dependent on the Federal Reserve. Constantly educate yourself, find great companies, and invest for the long term.

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Dan Dzombakcan be found on Twitter @DanDzombakor on his Facebook page,DanDzombak. Hehas no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Originally published