The United States Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 0.75% for the fourth consecutive meeting, driving the key rate up to 3.75%- 4%, the highest it has been for 14 years since the height of the global financial crash.
It was a decision made following the latest meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
A statement released after the announcement of the rise alluded to elevated inflation as predictably the main reason for the hike in rates. Prices rose 0.4% month-on month in September but fell annually by 0.1% down to 8.2%.
Prices remain high due to imbalances in supply and demand related to the pandemic, with food and energy costs also keeping inflation high.
The Committee continues to target a 2% rate of inflation but felt it necessary to raise rates again to achieve that longer term aim.
The move to increase rates was taken even though the statement alluded to modest growth, following last week’s estimated figure of 2.6% of growth for the third quarter of this year, a rebound from two quarters of economic contraction.
The Committee also highlighted the robust jobs market and low unemployment as significant factors, but the trends are not strong enough to avert higher borrowing costs.
Markets Move on Mixed Messages
There was some hope for those who are wary of the continuing rate raises, as the Committee’s statement revealed that “cumulative tightening of monetary policy” will be taken into account as regards future rate rises.
Yet Fed chair Jerome Powell was far more hawkish in the press conference after the rate rise was revealed.
Powell said there was no grounds for complacency, despite the acknowledgement that some officials were looking again at the pace of rate increases with respect to wider economic developments.
There is still some way to go, he said, and that incoming data since the last FOMC meeting suggested that the level of interest rates will be higher than even previously anticipated.
He gave a further warning sign to the markets that it was too premature to think about pausing the current path of rate hikes.
Powell also dismissed the view that the Fed has overtightened its monetary policy.
He indicated that rates will probably reach 4.4% by the end of this year and will not begin to fall until 2024.
Analyst Not Surprised by Fed Decision
Most investors and market analysts fully expected the latest 0.75% rise.
Morgan Stanley noted that while it could foresee the latest increase in rates, it could also soon be appropriate to calm the pace of the rate hikes.
Over December and January, the financial giant expects that the rate will be tapered to a 0.50% and 0.25% rise respectively, reaching a peak rate of 4.625%.
Yet they concede that the Committee’s view of how high that rates could go remains the same and could go as high as 5%.
The CME Group’s FedWatch tool which reviews market expectations, revealed that 87.5% of participants thought there would be a 0.75% rise this time around.
But opinion is divided over what will happen next, as 43.2% believe that there will another 0.75% increase at the 14 December FOMC meeting, but 56.8% said that there will an easing of the rise down to 0.50%.
Dollar Recovers, Stock Markets Suffer
The US Dollar suffered losses after chair Powell made those aggressive comments on rates, but eventually recovered against its major currency rivals.
The greenback made its biggest comeback against the UK Pound with an eventual gain of 1.19%, with one Dollar now buying £0.88.
In the USD/EUR and USD/JPY currency pairs there were 0.83% and 0.33% increases, respectively.