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Countdown To Fed Announcement - By Jennifer Coombs

The market is losing patience waiting for the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee (FOMC) release on interest rates as well as their quarterly economic projections. The FOMC announcement is expected to be given at 2:00 P.M. EST and will be followed by a press conference at 2:30 P.M. EST with Fed Chair Janet Yellen, whose comments have the potential to swing the market even further. Ultimately, the meeting is expected to leave the policy rate unchanged, but the bigger issue will be in the language of the minutes. The key issue now is whether or not the word "patient" will be removed from its guidance; if it is, this hints at the fact that the Fed may raise interest raise rates as early as the June 2015 meeting. As such, the anxiety associated with the anticipation is keeping the major equity indices in the red for the session. Following the release, there will be craziness, but in which direction remains to be seen. Stay tuned.

Once again, the price of oil is not doing the market any favors as prices continue to hover around 6-year lows. Saudi Arabia commented overnight that conspiracy theorists, and not the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), are responsible for the crash in oil prices. Dr. Ibrahim Al-Muhanna, the advisor to Saudi Arabia's Petroleum Minister, said that excessive speculation drove the oil bust and in reality the demand for oil remains strong. Nevertheless, there is still pain to be felt here in the US as the shocking surplus of oil inventories keeps building. For the week ended March 13, crude oil inventories increased by a steep 9.6 million barrels, reaching yet another 80-year high of 458.8 million barrels. This marks the 10th consecutive build for oil inventories - all of them massive and well above consensus estimates. However, the inventory build is not reflective of the easing demand from refineries, which increased production in the week for gasoline and distillates. Even with the increase in crude inventories, gasoline inventories showed a 4.5-million barrel draw, but were still well above the average inventory level. On a wholesale level, gasoline supplies were up 2.7% year-on-year, which is heavy for this reading, and distillates up 5.6%. Weekly inventories are well outside the range of the previous five years and aren't showing any sign of returning to normal anytime soon. We expect oil prices to play a bit role in the Fed's overall economic outlook for 2015.