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Fortune Investor Data
Thank you, Mr. Greenspan –- may we go now? Right on time at 2:20 p.m. Wednesday, the Federal Reserve released Wall Street from months of suspense. It raised short-term interest rates by one quarter point and returned its "bias" to neutral –- and gave little sign of what it planned to do at its next meeting on August 24. TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl says that’s because Greenspan himself doesn’t know. "If the economy starts to slow down –- and there are scattered indications that it’s beginning to –- chances are he won’t raise again," he says. "But with consumer spending at its current blistering pace, he needs to look at two more months of data before he can decide."
After a jittery morning of anticipation, the markets heard "neutral bias" and bolted. The Dow went from 44 points down to 74 up in less than a minute. Bond yields momentarily dipped below 6 percent for the first time in weeks. An extended rally –- given the strong correlation between consumers and the value of their portfolios –- could of course set off the very overheat that Greenspan is so worried about. But the indexes are short-sighted, emotional creatures, and Wednesday the emotion was relief. "The uncertainty is over, and Greenspan clearly is done raising for a while," says Baumohl. And the markets are off and running all over again –- at least until August 24 starts to loom.