Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's dovish tone in a Tuesday speech appeased global markets by assuring a "cautious" path to interest rate normalization. But one analyst still thinks the central bank is set to raise interest rates twice this year.
"The message Yellen delivered was exactly what the market wanted to hear," said David Lebovitz, global markets strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. "It looks like we're still in the two-rate-hike scenario this year."
The Fed's March statement told markets to expect two rate hikes in 2016, pulling back from its prior forecast of four rate hikes -- a rather hawkish prediction made back in December, when the Fed initiated its first rate hike in nearly 10 years.
"The market, at the beginning of this year, was completely freaked out by the prospect of four rate hikes," Lebovitz said.
The Fed scaled back its ambitious December forecast amid the volatility in global markets since the start of the year. Market participants seemed worried about China, the world's second-largest economy, and a precipitous drop in oil prices.
In her speech Tuesday, Yellen said, "Economic and financial conditions remain less favorable than they did back at the time of the December FOMC meeting."
Lebovitz doesn't think the U.S. economy is worse off than it was three months ago. "When you look at some of the hard data, particularly the March data, we're beginning to see improvement in manufacturing and we expect the headwinds facing durable goods to recover," he said.
In Lebovitz's view, the economy should be able to grow at 2% this year as long as the labor market continues to tighten and consumption remains healthy. This remains near the 2.2% GDP forecast the Fed made following its March statement.