The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee turned more aggressive in this month’s meeting by raising the key fed funds interest rate by 0.50%—for the first time in over twenty years by that amount—to a new range of 0.75-1.00%. There were no dissents. This was in line with consensus estimates, steered by Fed member comments over the past few weeks that guided markets to anticipate this more hawkish outcome.
The formal statement language noted that economic activity edged down in Q1, although household and business spending remains strong, as are job gains. Inflation was described as remaining elevated, reflecting ongoing pandemic disruptions as well as higher energy prices, although broadened to other areas. Ukraine was also mentioned as an additional source of geopolitical uncertainty, and Covid lockdowns in China continuing to weigh on supply disruptions. In addition to today’s rate hike, ‘ongoing’ rate increases were seen as appropriate. Guidelines for balance sheet reduction were also outlined, set to begin in June at $47.5 bil./mo., ramping up to $95 bil./mo. after three months.
Based on CME data, formal probabilities of a 0.50% fed funds hike ticked up a few percentage points in recent days to just under 100%1. In addition, a 0.75% rate increase is the highest expected outcome for June. The September level is predicted to reach 2.50-2.75% (around the Fed long-term neutral rate), and 3.00-3.25% by December, although that features more outcome dispersion on both sides. The latest period available, Jul. 2023, shows the highest probability being 3.50-3.75%, implying some slowing in the hiking pace by that time. Regardless, markets are predicting a much more aggressive Fed pace than we’ve been used to, although these probability markets are subject to rapid change.
The Fed’s evaluation metrics remain mixed, in terms of high inflation being offset by still decent, but decelerating economic growth fundamentals: ...