U.S. rate futures raise odds for hefty rate hike in May after Powell comments

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell addresses an online news conference in Washington

NEW YORK – Federal funds rate futures on Monday raised the chances of a half percentage-point tightening by the Federal Reserve at the next policy meeting in May, after hawkish comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

Powell said on Monday the Fed must move “expeditiously” to bring too-high inflation to heel, and will, if needed, use bigger-than-usual interest rate hikes to do so.

In late afternoon trading, rate futures showed a 63% chance that the Fed will raise interest rates by 50 basis points in May to 0.75%-1.00%, less than a week after the Fed hiked by a quarter-point to 0.25%-0.50%.

“Fed Chair Powell was a more hawkish than we, and the market expected, emphasizing the need to attack inflation rather than take a cautious approach due to the various uncertainties over growth,” said Action Economics in its latest blog.

“Is he setting the markets up for a 50 basis-point hike in May? It is also the case that balance sheet reduction is expected to be announced in May, with some insights before that to be seen in the minutes due on April 6.”

For the year, futures have priced in 184 basis points of policy tightening.

Futures had priced in a roughly 52% chance of a 50 basis- point hike at the May meeting just before the text of Powell’s comments to a National Association of Business Economics conference was released.

Other metrics such as the CME FedWatch tool showed a 48.4% probability of a 50-basis-point hike in May.

(This story inserts dropped name, Powell, in 2nd paragraph)

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Alden Bentey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)