Speechifying at Amherst, Mass., last week, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen barely made it to her money line.
She assured America (once again), that, though she had just bowed to Wall Street pressure (once again) and voted to keep money unnaturally cheap at this month's Federal Reserve Board of Governors meeting, she and "most" of the voting members still look forward to "an initial increase in the federal funds rate later this year."
But Yellen stalled several times before she got to those words, then had to be helped off the stage. Just a little dehydration, her aide said later.
The public defense of monetary policy is physically demanding, it seems: like loading trucks at Amazon.com.
Tom Piersanti posed another explanation. The South Jersey native, who is head U.S. equity options trader at Mint Partners in New York, says it looked to him as if Yellen had "pulled muscles laughing at her own speech."
He suggested this reconstruction of the chairman's internal monologue: "'Hey, guys! Wait till you hear this: The majority of governors see a rate hike by year's end - we really mean it this time!' Then she spit her lunch out and pulled a muscle."
The Fed's failure to lift the price of money from its recession-fighting low disappointed retired savers, profit-challenged bankers, and critics worried that cheap money is inflating asset prices and setting up the next sharp recession.
Despite Yellen's protestations, it's starting to look as if the Fed has blown its chance to boost rates anytime soon, writes Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust Co., which invests $8.5 billion for clients.
If we take seriously the Fed's expressed reasons for not raising rates - its worries about weak foreign markets - that problem won't magically get fixed later this year or early next, Smith points out.
Politically sensitive Fed governors are also unlikely to hike rates during next year's presidential campaign season, Smith adds. So "the Fed may have to push the hike back until 2017," creating yet "more market uncertainty."
"Finally, someone gets it," Piersanti told me, after I posted Smith's report. "There will not be a rate hike till 2017. No way will they do it until the election."
Plus, it's more than likely the Fed believes the economy, given the slowdown in global demand for commodities and exports, "needs stock market wealth profits much more than usual" - another reason not to raise rates.
Even without a rate hike, U.S. bonds are still yielding less badly than foreign bonds, which helps sell American debt to foreign investors, taking pressure off the Fed and government borrowing, Piersanti concludes.
So what is a value-hungry investor to do? Smith writes: "Be confident that rates are going to remain lower" until at least the next president. Blue-chip and dividend-paying stocks, real estate stocks, and utilities look less bad than low-rate investment-grade bonds or suspiciously modest-priced junk bonds. At least until rates start to rise.
A previous version of this column gave an incorrect location for Yellen's speech.