The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates Wednesday by 75 basis points for the fourth straight meeting while hinting at a potential slower pace in the future — and then Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated the central bank's commitment to raise rates further in an attempt to tame multi-decade highs in inflation.
“In determining the pace of future increases in the target range the committee will take into account the cumulative tightening of monetary policy, the lags with which monetary policy affects economic activity and inflation and economic and financial developments," the policy statement said.
“No surprise here,” Advisors Capital Management Partner JoAnne Feeney told Yahoo Finance Live about the policy decision. “Growth is moderating, and I think that might suggest to the market that the end might be in sight for rate increases.”
Stocks turned green after the statement, then fell as Powell repeatedly told reporters that the Fed still "has a ways to go" in its fight against inflation.
"It is very premature, in my view, to think about or be talking about pausing our rate hikes," Powell stressed. "We have a ways to go. Our policy, we need ongoing rate hikes to get to that level of sufficiently restrictive [territory] — and of course, we don't know exactly where that is. ... I would expect to us to continue to update it based on what we're seeing with incoming data."
The rate hike brings the central bank’s policy rate, the federal funds rate, to a new range of 3.75% to 4% — its highest level since 2008 — from a current range between 3% and 3.25%. In the press conference, Powell stated that interest rates may need to rise above the 4.6% previously estimated.
Four 75-basis-point rate hikes in a row is unprecedented since the Fed explicitly started targeting the federal funds rate to conduct monetary policy in the late 1980s. Wednesday's announcement brings the rate to a level not seen since the end of 2007. The vote was unanimous.
Once the policy rate reaches what the Fed feels is a sufficiently restrictive level, they would maintain that level for “some time” until there was “compelling” evidence that inflation was on course to return to 2%.
Asked about whether it's become more difficult to engineer a soft landing — in other words, avoid a painful recession — Powell stated: "The inflation picture has become more and more challenging over the course of this year. That means we have to have policy more restrictive, and that narrows the path to a soft landing."
Powell also acknowledged the slowing of economic growth while stressing that interest rates would have to continue rising given that the labor market remains "out of balance."
Fed officials see the job market as strong, pointing to robust job gains and a low unemployment rate. At the same time, the job market appears to be cooling: Job openings fell sharply in August and the job quits rate is trending lower while fewer new jobs are being minted on a monthly basis.
Economists project that Friday's job report will show that 200,000 nonfarm payrolls were created in October, a result that would be down from the 263,000 jobs created in September and down from the monthly average of 420,000 in 2022.