Fed Chair Jay Powell. Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Even though the Fed's policymaking committee has no meeting scheduled until mid-September, more attention is turning to the central bank as inflation has begun to pick up and Congress left town without delivering a new round of fiscal stimulus.

Why it matters: Since its unprecedented intervention into financial markets in March, the Fed has been seen as the driver of financial markets — holding up stock and bond prices through its massive bond-buying programs.

What's happening: Treasury yields spiked 26 basis points between Aug. 4 and Aug. 13, hitting their highest since June 24, and the stock market's gains have slowed.

  • "What we’re seeing is the market trying to figure out what’s next from the Fed," Gennadiy Goldberg, U.S. rates strategist at TD Securities, tells Axios.
  • "There’s very little doubt about the Fed being accommodative but what does the fall look like?"

The biggest questions are about the pace of an economic recovery in the U.S. and how that could impact asset prices.

  • While few investors believe a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready and widely available before year-end, investors are positioning just in case — not wanting to miss out on another market bonanza.
  • "People don’t want to wait for vaccine news to come out to reposition their portfolio," Richard Steinberg, chief market strategist at The Colony Group, tells Axios.

The big picture: A quickly recovering economy could be great for stock prices but trouble for bonds, and has the potential to put the Fed behind the curve on inflation, auguring for faster interest rate hikes.

  • Both consumer and wholesale prices have increased much faster than expected in recent months and the Washington Post wrote earlier this month that "the cost of groceries has been rising at the fastest pace in decades."

The bottom line: The Fed faces a number of new pressures but the market will be looking for assurances that chair Jerome Powell and company are still prepared to do whatever it takes to keep interest rates down and asset prices flying high.

What's next: Investors will be carefully perusing minutes from the Fed's July meeting, which will be released on Wednesday.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Sep 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

An uncertain Fed for an uncertain time

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Stringer/Getty Images

The Fed policy meeting Wednesday that was designed to further clarify its new stance on "average inflation targeting" — a topic addressed by multiple policymakers on its rate-setting committee in the month since it was announced — left the market with more questions than answers.

What's happening: The Fed announced that not only was it keeping U.S. interest rates at essentially zero for now but it plans to keep them there until at least 2023, extending its forecast an additional year.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 18, 2020 - Health

Hospital prices' steady rise

Data: Whaley, et al., 2020, "Nationwide Evaluation of Health Care Prices Paid by Private Health Plans"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Employers and private insurers paid hospitals, on average, 247% of what Medicare paid for the same services in 2018, per a new RAND study.

Why it matters: We all pay for this giant gap in prices through our premiums and lost wages.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 30,873,714 — Total deaths: 958,383— Total recoveries: 21,103,559Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 6,788,343 — Total deaths: 199,421 — Total recoveries: 2,577,446 — Total tests: 94,211,463Map.
  3. Politics: Testing czar on Trump's CDC contradictions: "Everybody is right" Ex-FDA chief: Career scientists won't be "easily cowed" by political vaccine pressure
  4. Education: What we overlooked in the switch to remote learning
  5. Health: The dwindling chances of eliminating COVID-19.
  6. World: England sets £10,000 fine for breaking self-isolation rules — The countries painting their pandemic recoveries green.