What history says about when the Fed will start raising rates
The Federal Reserve left the fed funds rate in the zero to 0.25% range at its March meeting. This is the 15th month that the Fed has maintained rates at an all-time low. At the conclusion of the meeting the Fed stated that it will keep rates near zero "for an extended period of time," so no rate increase should be expected for at least several more months. Examining how the Fed reacted to past recessions can provide investors with some insight into when the Fed will actually change to a more restrictive interest rate policy this time around. According to the official record, the previous US recession took place between March 2001 and November 2001. This recession was unique in that it is the only one in US history where consumer spending didn't drop and it was also one of the mildest recessions on record. Fed funds bottomed at 1.00% in June 2003 - 19 months after the recession was supposedly over. The backdrop was very low inflation. News reports of a jobless recovery were common even in the fall of 2003 and there was great concern at the time because the unemployment rate was at the 6% level (as opposed to 10% today). Fed funds remained at a low point for 11 months, so the Fed started raising its funds rate 30 months after the recession officially ended. If we optimistically assume that the current recession ended in July 2009 because GDP turned positive in the third quarter of the year, this would imply Fed funds would start rising around January 2012. The recession before the one in the early 2000s took place between July 1990 and March 1991. Fed funds bottomed at 3.00% in September 1992 - 18 months after the recession officially ended.