Fed expected to step up inflation fight with big rate hike_freckle removal vancouver

Ann Saphir·4 min read

By Ann Saphir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve on Wednesday is expected to raise interest rates by half of a percentage point and announce the start of reductions to its $9 trillion balance sheet as U.S. central bankers intensify efforts to bring down high inflation.

Fed policymakers have widely telegraphed a double-barreled decision that would lift the Fed's short-term target policy rate to a range between 0.75% and 1%, and set in motion a plan to trim its portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) by as much $95 billion a month.

The policy statement is due to be released at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) following the end of the Fed's latest two-day meeting.

Markets have priced in further rate increases through this year and into next, including at least a couple more half-percentage-point hikes, as traders bet the central bank moves much more quickly than it had anticipated it would in March to get borrowing costs up to where they will start actively curbing inflation.

With no fresh Fed economic or policy rate projections due until the central bank's June meeting, most clues on how far and how fast it is prepared to go will come from Fed Chair Jerome Powell's news conference, which starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

'SOUND HAWKISH'

The Fed began its current round of policy tightening in mid-March with a quarter-percentage-point rate hike, smaller than many policymakers had wanted given inflation had hit a 40-year high, but calibrated so as not to inject more uncertainty into global markets roiled by Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

In the weeks since that decision, inflation has gained new steam as the war pushed up oil and food prices and China's strict lockdowns to combat the spread of COVID-19 further disrupted supply chains.

Data on the U.S. labor market also suggests increasing labor market tightness, with employment costs surging as businesses struggle to hold onto workers. A record number of job openings may also translate to higher wages that could also feed through to inflation.

(editor:)

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