Dec 15, 2022 - Economy

Fed "determined" to keep raising interest rates

Illustration of a knob turning towards dollar bill signs of increasing size.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Federal Reserve's commitment to keep raising interest rates was unwelcome news to jittery Wall Street investors as well inflation-weary consumers.

Driving the news: The Fed is easing up ever so slightly on the size of its interest rate hikes. But it made clear Wednesday that rates are only going up from here, even if it's at a slower pace.

Where it stands: Inflation has moderated, but prices are still rising enough to be a problem for the central bank. With the jury still out on whether the economy will slip into a recession (or is already in one), the Fed’s task of engineering a soft landing for the economy is increasingly fraught.

  • "I wish there [was] a completely painless way to restore price stability. There isn't,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday.

The Fed’s “dot plot” projection of future rates suggests a rate cut won’t be in the cards until 2024 at the earliest, and “shows a Fed that is clearly determined to err on the side of not giving up the fight on inflation too early,” BlackRock's Rick Rieder said on Tuesday.

What they’re saying: Peter Boockvar, CIO at Bleakley Financial Group, invoked a line from Duran Duran’s classic chart-topper, “Hungry Like the Wolf” to describe a Fed whose commitment to tighter policy risks upending a debt-saddled economy.

  • With benchmark rates inching closer to 5%, the Fed "straddle[s] the line in discord and rhyme," the veteran market watcher wrote in a note. “I say this because of the size of the debt on which these rate increases are taking place against.”

The impact: Consumers are facing higher borrowing costs. Mortgage rates, while having dipped recently, are still close to 7%. Meanwhile, Bankrate.com shows the average credit card rate is flirting with 20%.

The bottom line: “The net result of not being in Kansas anymore is going to be a slower rate of economic growth and lower market multiples, and while a mild recession is all we will see, it also implies that any recovery that follows is mild too,” Boockvar says.

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