Fed officials expect further rate increases, minutes show

Policymakers agree 'overall financial conditions should be consistent' with restraint imposed to bring down inflation

US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. AFP
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Minutes released by the US Federal Reserve from its latest meeting showed that policymakers expect continuing interest rate increases to bring inflation back down to their long-term 2 per cent goal.

But a vast majority supported the decision to reduce the size of the rises.

The Fed last month raised interest rates by 25 basis points, bringing rates to the range of 4.50 per cent and 4.75 per cent.

The central bank has raised interest rates eight times since March of last year, from near zero.

“Almost all participants agreed that it was appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate 25 basis points,” minutes released by the Fed's meeting on January 31 and February 1 show.

“A few participants” favoured raising interest rates by 50 basis points, which they said would bring the Fed on track to move closer to what it considers to be a sufficiently restrictive stance.

Traders expect the Fed to raise interest rates by 25 basis points next month, the CME Group's FedWatch Tool shows.

With inflation still well above its 2 per cent goal and a hot labour market, Fed officials agreed it would need to continue imposing the rate rises.

“All participants continued to anticipate that ongoing increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would be appropriate to achieve the committee’s objectives,” the minutes read.

Fed officials noted during their meeting that it was “important that overall financial conditions be consistent with the degree of policy restraint” imposed by the central bank to bring inflation down closer to its target.

Government data released after the Fed's latest meeting underscored the argument made by officials.

The labour market still remains tight, with 517,000 jobs added in January.

“It kind of shows you why we think that this will be a process that takes a significant period of time,” Fed chairman Jerome Powell said of the January jobs report.

And the Consumer Price Index report released last week slowed 6.4 per cent on a year-on-year basis for the month of January, still well above its goal.

The Fed's preferred gauge of inflation, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, is set to be released on Friday.

Policymakers have indicated a willingness to go higher than the 5.1 per cent median forecast estimated at the end of last year.

They are expected to adjust their end-of-year forecast during their March 21-22 meeting.

Updated: February 22, 2023, 9:21 PM