The Federal Reserve goes big with its third three-quarter interest rate hike

The large increase, which was unfathomable by the markets just months ago, takes the central bank’s benchmark interest rate to a new target range of 3-3.25%. It is the highest Fed Funds rate has been since the global financial crisis in 2008.

Wednesday’s decision marks the Fed’s toughest policy move since the 1980s to fight inflation. It is also likely to cause financial pain to millions of American businesses and households by pushing up the cost of borrowing for things like homes, cars and credit cards.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged the economic pain this rapid tightening could cause.

“No one knows whether this process will lead to a recession or, if so, how significant that recession will be,”[ads1]; Powell said Wednesday afternoon at a news conference after the central bank’s policy announcement, which came after a two-day monetary policy meeting. .

The Fed’s updated summary of economic projections, released Wednesday, reflects this pain: The quarterly report showed a less optimistic outlook for economic growth and the labor market, with the median unemployment rate rising to 4.4% in 2023, higher than the 3.9% Fed officials projected in June and significantly higher than the current rate of 3.7%.

US gross domestic product, the main measure of economic output, was revised down to 0.2% from 1.7% in June. That’s well below analysts’ estimates: Bank of America economists had estimated that GDP would be revised to 0.7%.

Inflation estimates also rose. Core personal consumption expenditures, the Fed’s preferred measure of rising prices, are projected to reach 4.5% this year and 3.1% in 2023, the Fed’s SEP showed. This is up from June estimates of 4.3% and 2.7% respectively.

Perhaps most important to investors seeking guidance from the Fed is the estimate of the federal funds rate, which outlines what officials believe is the right policy for rate hikes going forward. The figures released on Wednesday showed that the Federal Reserve expects interest rates to remain high for years to come.

The median federal funds estimate was revised upward for 2022 to 4.4% from 3.4% in June. This figure rises to 4.6% from 3.8% for 2023. The rate was also revised higher for 2024 to 3.9% from 3.4% in June and is expected to remain at 2.9% in 2025.

What rising interest rates mean for you

Overall, the new projections show the growing risk of a hard landing, where monetary policy is tightened to the point of triggering a recession. They also provide some evidence that the Fed is willing to accept “pain” in economic conditions to bring down persistent inflation.

The higher prices mean consumers are spending about $460 more per month on groceries than they were this time last year, according to Moody’s Analytics. Nevertheless, the labor market is still strong, as is consumption. House prices are still high in many areas, even though there has been a significant increase in mortgage interest rates. That means the Fed may feel the economy can swallow more aggressive rate hikes.

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