July 5, 2022

The Fed Raises Interest Rates by 0.75 Percentage Points to Tackle Inflation

“What Powell and the rest of the F.O.M.C. are saying is that restoring price stability is the primary focus — if they risk a mild recession, or a bumpy soft landing, that would still be successful,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “The focus is greatly on inflation right now.”

Until late last week, investors and many economists expected the central bank to raise interest rates just half a percentage point at this week’s meeting. The Fed had lifted rates by a quarter point in March and half a point in May, and had signaled that it expected to continue that pace in June and July.

But central bankers have received a spate of bad news on inflation in recent days. The Consumer Price Index jumped 8.6 percent in May from a year earlier, the fastest increase since late 1981. The pace was brisk even after the stripping out of food and fuel prices.

While the Fed’s preferred price gauge — the Personal Consumption Expenditures measure — is climbing slightly more slowly, it remains too hot for comfort as well. And consumers are beginning to expect faster inflation in the months and years ahead, based on surveys, which is a worrying development. Economists think that expectations can be self-fulfilling, causing people to ask for wage increases and accept price jumps in ways that perpetuate high inflation.

“What we’re looking for is compelling evidence that inflationary pressures are abating, and that inflation is moving back down,” Mr. Powell said at his news conference Wednesday, noting that instead the inflation situation has worsened. “We thought that strong action was warranted.”

One Fed official, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Esther George, voted against the rate increase. Though Ms. George has historically worried about high inflation and favored higher interest rates, she would have preferred a half-point move in this instance.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/15/business/economy/fed-interest-rates.html

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