Market pauses while the Fed speaks again (and again and again)

11/19/2013 5:53 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

At least the Federal Reserve is giving us Thanksgiving week off.

But this week is jammed with Fed news and speeches.

We’ve got chairman Ben Bernanke speaking tonight at 7 p.m. Eastern at the National Economists Annual Dinner. Sarah Bloom Raskin, a current member of the Fed’s board of governors, will testify in the Senate tomorrow as part of the confirmation process for her nomination as Deputy Treasury Secretary. And governors Jerome Powell and Daniel Tarullo will give speeches on November 21 and November 22.

But the big event is tomorrow’s release of the minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s October meeting. Markets will be slicing and dicing those minutes for clues on the Fed’s thinking on how soon the central bank might begin to taper its current $85 billion a month in purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed assets.

The likelihood that there will be anything new in the minutes is small but the financial markets are perfectly able to make a big move on a perception of a change in policy even if there isn’t one. The timing of The Taper is THE big current market mover

The mere possibility that something in the minutes will move the markets is enough to produce extreme caution today. Since the reaction to the minutes is essentially a random event, I don’t think you’re likely to see anybody go out on a limb either long or short today.

At the moment the Fed calendar next week and after Thanksgiving is pretty clear until the December 18 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee. That will give us real news—of typical Fed clarity, of course—on the central bank’s thinking about the timing of any taper

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