Fed policymakers embrace more rate hikes, markets a little less

1 min read
Federal Reserve Board Building in Washington

By Ann Saphir and Lindsay Dunsmuir

(Reuters) -A pair of U.S. central bankers said on Friday they supported further sharp interest rate hikes to stem rapid price rises, even as investors cheered economic data showing inflation expectations to be less worrisome than initially feared.

Last week, the Federal Reserve raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point – its biggest hike since 1994 – to a range of 1.50% to 1.75%, and signaled its policy rate would rise to 3.4% by the end of this year.

Markets quickly priced in even more aggressive rate hikes, with interest-rate futures reflecting expectations for a policy rate of 3.5%-4% by year end. A stream of analysts and at least one former Fed policymaker raised the alarm on recession risks.

But on Friday, fresh data from the University of Michigan showed longer-term inflation expectations had not broken above their recent range, as a preliminary reading out just before the Fed’s June policy-setting meeting had suggested.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell had cited the initial read of 3.3% — a possible early warning that months of 8%-plus consumer price inflation were beginning to undermine public faith in the Fed’s ability to contain price pressures — as one reason policymakers supported the big rate increase in June.

San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly on Friday said she would still have supported a 75 basis point hike in June even had she known the revised 3.1% figure.

And she believes another 75 basis point interest rate hike will be needed next month, with further increases to follow to deal with prices pressures that in her view probably have not peaked.

Daly’s remarks are particularly striking because she is not known as an especially hawkish policymaker. She said that by year end rates should get to 3.1%, her view of a neutral level, though if inflation worsens the Fed may need to do more.

Speaking earlier in the day, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the Fed must “act forthrightly and aggressively to get inflation to turn around and get it under control,” repeating his call to frontload hikes to bring inflation down to the Fed’s 2% target.

Bullard since last summer has been one of the Fed’s most vocal hawks.

Both Daly and Bullard expressed confidence the Fed will be able to avoid recession, citing the strength of the labor market and economy’s momentum, helped by excess household savings that Daly said had not been spent down as quickly as she forecast.

Interest rate futures traders pared their expectations for Fed rate hikes and though they continue to price in a 75-basis point hike in July, ended the day reflecting expectations for a year-end Fed policy rate of 3.4%, exactly what Fed policymakers’ own forecasts suggest.

U.S. stocks ended the week up, with the S&P 500 Index marking its biggest one-day jump since May 2020.

(Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir and Dan Burns; Editing by Paul Simao and Sam Holmes)

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