Fed raises rates by 25 basis points but signals possible pause in tightening cycle
The US Federal Reserve delivered another 25 basis points rate hike in its May policy meeting, in line with expectations, but signaled that the fastest tightening cycle, in which the Fed raised its interest rates by 5% since March 2022, might be paused for some time.
The Fed’s latest action pushed its benchmark overnight interest rate to 5.00%-5.25% range, though change in rhetoric was seen by the markets as initial dovish signal, as Chair Powell said that the Fed is close or even at the end of rate increases.
The Fed faces two opposite and strong forces, with still too high inflation, which is the central bank primary target (putting inflation under control and pushing it towards 2% target) from one side and negative impact from high borrowing costs which slowed economic growth from the other side, additionally boosted by growing instability in the banking sector, following recent failure of three US banks.
Although the central bank signaled a pause in tightening cycle, Powell stressed that rate cutting this year was unlikely and also hinted that the Fed is prepared to do more if necessary, which leaves the door open for possible further hikes, but such action would depend on the economic situation during each of near-future policy meetings.
Powell also said that the US policymakers do not expect inflation to come down quickly, but gradually over the time that adds to argument that rate cuts this year wouldn’t be appropriate.
The Fed has a view that it has done enough by the recent tightening and need to wait for some time to see the full impact of its measures, pointing to the developing pressures in the economy and worries that stress in banking sector may slow the activity more than anticipated, but expressed hopes that a recession can be avoided.
The US policymakers see their current monetary policy restrictive enough to return inflation to the target, with expected slowdown not to be dramatic, adding to Powell’s remarks that avoiding recession is more likely than having a recession.