Investors will be paying close attention to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, starting Thursday, Aug. 24, as the annual Economic Policy Symposium kicks off with comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and her overseas counterpart, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, taking center stage.

Experts agreed that the symposium will largely be academic. "It's going to be boring," Washington Crossing portfolio manager Chad Morganlander said. "I don't believe there are going to be a whole lot of signals."

But with central banks from more than 40 countries represented, Jackson Hole could yet break news. These are the three most important things to watch for with central banks under the spotlight.

'Draghi, Draghi, Draghi'

"Honestly, Draghi, Draghi and Draghi," TD Securities analyst Gennadiy Goldberg said of the ECB leader's first appearance in Jackson Hole since 2014. "Everyone is trying to figure out if there is going to be some tone change."

Investors will be listening for any indication from Draghi of an impending alteration to Europe's quantitative easing program. But Goldberg said it's not worth holding your breath.

"He'll probably defer a decision to later in the fall. We currently think October," Goldberg said. "That'll give the ECB more time to look at incoming data, particularly inflation."

"All ears will be on Mario Draghi," Morganlander noted of what he expects to be an "extremely vague" speech. "Any guidance from him could have a ripple effect on sovereign debt, credit and equity markets."

Draghi must walk a fine line of addressing inflation trends and economic growth that have improved but not yet hit velocity, Morganlander said. Investors will latch onto any comment Draghi makes about growth in the EU as it relates to fiscal stimulus in the most important emerging market, China, Morganlander added.

ECB President Mario Draghi
ECB President Mario Draghi

The Fed's Balance Sheet: Steady as She Goes

The Fed has said previously that it would start unwinding its balance sheet "relatively soon," but weak inflation trends could hamper a scheduled move to pare down assets.

"There's a good chance we come out of Jackson Hole not knowing much more than we know now," Goldberg said.

But even if Yellen does signal wheels turning on the balance sheet agenda, trimming an expected $30 billion from the Fed's balance sheet by the end of the year is "inconsequential," said Marc Chandler, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman. The expected cut is only 0.75% of the entire $4 trillion balance sheet.

"Steady as she goes," Morganlander said. "They're going to take baby steps," and keep an eye on volatility both domestically and abroad. If the Fed were to move in a more aggressive fashion, it would slow down "speculative fervor" but cause more volatility and financial stress.

Yellen's Pet Issues

"There's nothing she could say that we don't know already," Chandler said.

The Jackson Hole symposium doesn't "lend itself to the nuances" of U.S. monetary policy, Chandler noted. Comments from leaders will fall in line with the symposium's title, "Fostering a Dynamic Global Economy." If Chandler's bet is right, Draghi won't address QE and neither will Yellen.

Instead of focusing on larger U.S. monetary policy issues, Yellen might focus on what Chandler called her "pet issues" -- opioid use and women's participation in the labor force.

Yellen has made clear in recent comments -- especially given her background as a labor economist -- that the opioid crisis is robbing the labor market of a more robust future.

Women's share of the U.S. job market was sixth-highest in the world in 1990, but fell to 17th place by 2010. And Yellen has expressed sympathy, Chandler said, for the argument that a lack of family-friendly policy has kept women out of the domestic labor market.

Even with Yellen's pet issues in focus, investors will be watching for comments about Yellen's definition of "transitory," Morganlander added. If she departs from her current rhetoric and admits low inflation expectations are not, in fact, transitory, Yellen could move markets, but that's not particularly probable.

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