Wednesday: After Fed, Economists Are Pleased

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Nice work. If you can get it.

The life of a central banker must be sweet. Your every word is hung on. You are the object of adulation for your mastery in leading the economy to the Promised Land. Best of all, you don't have to do a thing.


Federal Open Market Committee

, the confab of U.S. central bankers that in the past has given traders the heebie-jeebies, met Tuesday and, as almost everyone suggested, refrained from tinkering with interest rates, one of the few tools they have to corral the economy.

The outcome surprised no one. With nary a whiff of inflation, central bankers haven't felt the need to toy with rates since March. Even


, which normally prepares viewers throughout the morning that programming will be interrupted at 2:15 p.m. EDT, when the Fed's announcement comes, downplayed the event. After all, there was the end of the


strike to get flush over.

Indeed, "steady-as-she-goes" policy has become such the norm, most see the Fed at ease through the rest of the year, says Marc Chandler, currency strategist at

Deutsche Morgan Grenfell

. "The market is strongly leaning against a rate hike at the Sept. 30 FOMC meeting," he says, using the October Fed funds futures as his benchmark. Further out, the December contract also suggests more Fed inaction, "although with somewhat less conviction."

Other than the Fed, nothing big captured the market's attention. The end of the


strike, which was packaged as a victory for labor, upset a few traders early in the day, but they quickly got over it. The thought of an uppity labor force demanding higher pay for its skill set (isn't that what traders do?) brought a momentary inflation chill to the collective spine. (For more on the strife resolution, see this afternoon' midday musings.)

Housing starts, at 1.447 million, were unchanged, although building permits ticked 1.4% higher, suggesting a mini-spurt of activity might be around the corner. And, fueling just the slightest bit of concern, starts in the heavily populated Northeast jumped 41.4% to their highest level since November 1994, says Ken Mayland, chief economist at


in Cleveland. "The strength of the Northeast housing market hints that a tight market is spurring a spot of speculative construction activity."

Wednesday's numbers

(all times EDT):

Trade Balance

for June (8:30 a.m.): Consensus sees a $10 billion shortfall versus a $10.2 billion in May.

Treasury auction announcement

(2:30 p.m.): The Treasury announces two and five-year note auctions. Analysts see the amount being reduced by $500 million to $15 billion and $11 billion, respectively.

Consumer Comfort Index

(6:30 p.m.): The weekly

ABC/Money Magazine