Federal Reserve: Fed pauses interest rate hikes but signals more tightening to come

Washington: Federal Reserve officials paused on Wednesday following 15 months of interest-rate hikes but signaled they would likely resume tightening to cool inflation, projecting more increases than economists and investors expected.

“Holding the target range steady at this meeting allows the committee to assess additional information and its implications for monetary policy,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement released in Washington Wednesday.

Policymakers also adjusted the language in their post-meeting statement, referring to how they would determine “the extent of additional policy firming that may be appropriate,” rather than “the extent to which additional policy firming may be appropriate.”

The FOMC vote was unanimous. Of the 18 policymakers, 12 penciled in rates at or above the median range of 5.5% to 5.75%, showing most policymakers agree further tightening is needed.

The decision left the benchmark federal funds rate in a target range of 5% to 5.25%. Fresh quarterly Fed forecasts showed borrowing costs rising to 5.6% by year end, according to the median projection, compared with 5.1% in the previous round of projections.

The S&P 500 index of stocks declined immediately after the decision. The dollar pared declines against a basket of currencies. Yields on two-year Treasuries surged to the highest since March.

Wednesday’s hold is the first pit stop in the central bank’s most aggressive tightening campaign in decades to curb inflation that saw rates lifted from levels near zero starting in March 2022. Earlier this year, stock and bond markets were roiled and four regional banks collapsed as policymakers raced to catch up after being slow to respond to mounting price pressures. Yet the job market has remained sturdy and the inflation rate is still more than twice the Fed’s 2% target.Both Powell and Fed Governor Philip Jefferson – nominated for vice chair by President Joe Biden – signaled they supported skipping a rate move in comments before this meeting, arguing they could afford to wait for more data as they assess the evolving outlook. Other officials, including Fed Governor Christopher Waller, indicated they could go along with a skip but were cautious about calling an end to rate hikes with inflation stubbornly high.

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