Fed raises interest rates again, hints at smaller hikes in future

Jia Chen

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates for the fourth time this year, but signalled that future increases could be slower and more cautious.

The Fed’s policy-making committee voted unanimously to raise the benchmark federal funds rate by 0.25 percentage points to between 4.25% and 4.5%, its highest level in nearly 15 years.

The decision came as Fed officials tempered their projections for future rate increases, suggesting that they may be done with the current round of hikes and ready to pivot towards a softer monetary policy.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the decision to raise rates was made to “strike a balance” between supporting the economy and guarding against inflation that could result from a hot labor market and high consumer confidence.

“Our job is to keep the economy on a sustainable path,” Powell said at a press conference following the decision. “The economy is strong, inflation is near our 2% objective, and the job market is very strong. So, this is a good time to retire some of our accommodation.”

However, Powell and other Fed officials also signalled that future rate increases could be slower and more cautious, with a possible pause in the hiking cycle at some point in the near future.

“The committee judges that some further gradual increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the committee’s symmetric 2% objective,” the Fed statement said.

The Fed’s projection for future rate increases now calls for a more “moderate” pace, and officials said they would continue to monitor the economy and adjust their plans accordingly.

“We’re going to be watching the economy very carefully,” Powell said. “If the economy disappoints, we’re going to be prepared to adjust our policy.”