United States not on 'cusp' of accelerating inflation: Fed Chair

22 March, 2018, 02:00 | Author: Salvatore Jensen
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But U.S. wage growth has remained sluggish and household budgets are tight.

"The economic outlook has strengthened in recent months", the statement said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome "Jay" Powell also sounded a warning about rising trade tensions.

"Trade policy has become a concern going forward for that group", he says, referring to business leaders.

Now the Fed holds four press conferences a year, following meetings when they issue their quarterly economic projections.

The vote to raise rates was unanimous, 8-0. "Job gains have been strong in recent months, and the unemployment rate has stayed low".

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 28.09 points, or 0.11 percent, to 24,699.18, the S&P 500 lost 3.47 points, or 0.13 percent, to 2,713.47 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 7.34 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,356.96.

Taken together, the Fed's actions and forecasts Wednesday suggest a belief that the economy remains sturdy even almost nine years after the Great Recession ended.

Ahead of the Fed announcement, 2-year Treasury note yields, which are highly sensitive to Fed policy expectations, hit their highest in more than nine years on Wednesday morning at 2.35 percent. With growth picking up and unemployment low, policymakers expect core inflation - which excludes the food and energy categories - to rise 2.1 percent in 2019 and 2020. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy have continued to run below 2 percent.

“Jay Powell is nearly certain to announce a rate hike today of 25bp, taking the Fed Funds target rate from its current 1.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent up to a new range of 1.5 per cent to 1.75 per cent. Markets will not respond to the hike per se, since it has been widely anticipated. "But, this now being the sixth interest rate hike, the cumulative effect since December 2015 is that a $30,000 home equity line now carries a minimum payment that is $37 a month higher", McBride said. Some economists expected the Fed would signal a fourth hike this year.

In its first policy meeting under new Fed chief Jerome Powell, the US central bank said inflation should move higher amid a stronger economy after years below its 2 percent target.

The Federal Reserve announcement is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. Prior to that, the central bank held rates near zero for seven years to encourage borrowing and spending and help support the recovery from the Great Recession.

The reason for their cautious approach to raising interest rates is stubbornly low inflation.

The Fed on Wednesday boosted its key short-term rate by a modest quarter-point to a still-low range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent and said it will keep shrinking its bond portfolio.

The policy move leaves central bankers with room to assess whether they will need to raise rates faster to prevent the economy from overheating.

It's also the first Fed meeting since Jerome Powell took over as chairman, although so far Powell hasn't made any major breaks with the policies of predecessor Janet Yellen.

Though this will be his first news conference as Fed chairman, Powell has already faced tough questioning during two days of congressional hearings in February and March.

Powell then commented on the strength of the economy and projections for future rate increases as inflation remains below the Fed's target of 2% despite a host of strengthening signs in the labor market.


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