The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 75 basis points for the third straight meeting after inflation numbers came in hotter than expected for August. The federal funds rate boost is in line with Wall Street’s expectations as Chair Jerome Powell has promised to keep forging ahead until they are “very confident” inflation is coming down closer to the 2% target.
This brings the benchmark rate to 3%-3.25%, the highest it has been since 2008. It is the fifth rate hike this year, the most aggressive campaign by the Fed since the 1980s, which is the last time inflation was this high. The consumer price index increased at an annual rate of 8.3% in August, down from June’s 9.1% peak but above the 8.1% expected.
While energy and used cars have seen price declines the last two months, other consumer categories seem little deterred by rate hikes so far despite a growing crunch in the economy. The unemployment rate went up to 3.7% in August after matching a 50-year low of 3.5% in July, the first signs of a labor slowdown. The Fed on Wednesday updated its unemployment projections, forecasting unemployment will reach 4.4% by 2023, up from the 3.9% projected in June.
The stock market has also continued to see wild swings of worry, the S&P 500 was down 19% on the year before the Fed’s announcement Wednesday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 15.6% in 2022.
Homebuyers and other borrowers are also seeing a significant hit. The average 30-year fixed mortgage rate jumped to 6.25% last week, the highest since October 2008, according to Mortgage Bankers Association data released Wednesday. Home loans and credit cards are among rates impacted by Fed hikes.
The Fed also projects real GDP will now grow just 0.2% in 2022, down from their previous forecast of 1.7%. The U.S. has so far seen two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth to kick off 2022, prompting worries of an economic recession.