The Federal Reserve on Wednesday hiked its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis point for the fourth straight meeting, sending the target rate to a range of 3.75%-4%, its highest since the beginning of 2008. The aggressive rate hike was expected in the Fed’s battle to bring down inflation, which in 2022 is at its highest point in four decades.
While the fourth jumbo hike was largely expected, the Fed’s more dovish comments on what’s to come had investors seeing green, at least until Chair Jerome Powell took to the podium. In a statement, the Fed shared that while it anticipates “ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate…to return inflation to 2% over time,” the pace of those increases will take into account cumulative tightening and lags, indicating there could be a slowdown in the aggressive rate hike campaign.
But then, stocks tumbled when Powell spoke to reporters shortly after, noting that while “at some point” it will be the right time to slow the pace of increases, there was significant uncertainty around the level of interest rate needed to bring down inflation.
“We still have some ways to go,” Powell said. “Incoming data since our last meeting suggest that the ultimate level of interest rates will be higher than previously expected.”
The Fed’s rate hike campaign has done a tremendous job decimating the housing market and lending activity but has so far not spilled into other parts of the economy in ways the Fed would like to see. Consumers and the labor market remain resilient, keeping demand high for goods and services.
September consumer prices soared higher than expected, rising 0.4% on the month and hitting an 8.2% annual rate, a hair lower than August’s 8.3%. What was even more notable is core consumer prices — stripping out food and energy — rose 6.6% on the year, the highest annual pace in four decades.