Federal Reserve Officials Continue to Cite Inflation Risks

by Warren Seah

Most Federal Reserve officials are expressing concerns about serious inflation risks, indicating that further interest-rate hikes may be necessary. The minutes of the July policy meeting reveal that the main question among Fed officials is whether the current level of the policy interest rate is “sufficiently restrictive” to bring inflation down to the target of 2%.

Upside Risks to Inflation Remain

The minutes highlight that the majority of participants still see significant upside risks to inflation, which could necessitate additional tightening of monetary policy. While some officials harbor worries about a potential economic downturn, the economy appears to remain resilient.

Avoiding Overtightening of Policy

A number of Fed officials emphasized the importance of avoiding inadvertent overtightening of policy. Two members from the dovish camp advocated for maintaining interest rates at their current level during the July meeting. However, the voting members of the Fed’s interest rate committee unanimously voted in favor of a 25 basis point hike, pushing the benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 5.25%-5.5%. This marks the 11th rate hike since March 2022, bringing rates to their highest level in 22 years.

Clarifying the Inflation Outlook

The minutes indicate that Fed officials expect forthcoming data to provide clarity on whether the tentative signs of abating inflation will develop into a lasting trend. The next Federal Reserve meeting is scheduled for September 19-20, and Chairman Jerome Powell has referred to it as a “live” meeting, meaning that the Fed could either raise rates or decide to keep them unchanged.

Limited Expectations for Rate Hike in September

Traders in derivative markets only assign a 10% probability of a rate hike in September. The Fed has projected one more rate hike for this year, with three more interest-rate policy meetings remaining.

Stocks, including the DJIA and SPX, experienced declines on Wednesday, while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 4.24%.

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