Fed raises rates 0.75 percentage points, signals more to come
The Federal Reserve enacted its third consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate hike Wednesday and released new forecasts that show the central bank envisions higher unemployment and yet higher rates in the coming months in its campaign to bring down inflation.
Why it matters: Altogether, the signal of more rate increases ahead paired with pessimistic projections for the labor market, is a clear signal of the Fed's commitment to putting a lid on soaring prices — even if it the broader economy takes a hit as a result.
What they're saying: "We have got to get inflation behind us. I wish there were a painless way to do that. There isn't," Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell told reporters at a press conference.
Driving the news: Following a two-day meeting, the Fed's policy committee increased its target for short-term interest rates to the 3 to 3.25% range, and said in a statement that it "anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate."
- In new forecasts, the median official of the central bank now expects their rate target to reach 4.4% by the end of this year, a full percentage point higher than they had projected at their June meeting. That would move that benchmark rate to its highest level since 2007.
- They anticipate at least one additional rate increase next year, with the median official now expecting a 4.6% rate target at the end of 2023, up from 3.8% in June.
Flashback: There had been signs earlier this summer that inflationary pressures could have been fading, which would have given the Fed some flexibility to slow its pace of rate hikes.
- But the August Consumer Price Index numbers showed scorching 8.3% inflation over the last year, and an acceleration in various measures of core inflation that exclude the most volatile prices.
- Now, Powell is aiming to convey a whatever-it-takes determination to bring inflation down, even at the cost of significant economic pain.
- The new projections, showing higher rates, higher unemployment, and weaker GDP growth, are elements of that strategy, aiming to signal the central bank's resolve.
- As Powell started to take questions from reporters on Wednesday, he opened with a stern warning — possibly directed to financial markets: "My main message has not changed at all since Jackson Hole," Powell said, referring to his blunt speech last month that signaled the Fed would not relent on interest rate hikes to bring inflation down.
By the numbers: In new forecasts, the median Fed official envisioned the unemployment rate rising to 4.4% late next year and staying there through 2024, a projected increase that Powell characterized as a "relatively modest" by historical standards. They previously envisioned the jobless rate peaking at 3.9%.
- They also downgraded GDP growth forecasts to 0.2% over the course of 2023 from 1.7% in June. They see GDP growth of 1.2% next year.
- The officials expect inflation as measured by their preferred gauge will move down from a projected 5.4% this year to their 2% target in 2025.
Already, the Fed's tightening campaign has driven home mortgage rates above 6%, causing home sale activity to slow dramatically, and walloped many financial markets.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.