Powell Talks a Tough Rate-Hike Game. But Will He Walk the Walk In December?

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said all the right things on Wednesday to keep alive the possibility of further interest rate hikes from the central bank. And yet another rate-hike pause in December—and beyond—seems increasingly likely.

It never came. Where Powell used to say that Fed officials believed the risk of doing too little was far greater than the risk of doing too much, he is now saying that those risks are “getting more balanced.” He welcomed progress on both inflation and wage growth. He emphasized that rates are “clearly restrictive,” while acknowledging that the focus is now on “getting confident” that policy is sufficiently tight, suggesting it may already be.

“I think the efficacy of the dot plot probably decays over the three-month period between that meeting and the next meeting,” Powell said, adding that the Fed’s projections are “not a promise or a plan for the future.” headtopics.com

Investors appear to agree. Shortly after the press conference ended, investors were pricing in an 82% chance the central bank would hold rates steady in December—up from a 70% chance the day before, the CME FedWatch tool showed.

To be sure, Powell was careful not to close the door entirely on the possibility of another rate hike, and he checked all the necessary boxes to preserve the central bank’s various policy options moving forward. The committee’s bias, he said, is still toward further tightening. Rate cuts aren’t under discussion at all. headtopics.com

“He was careful to state that the FOMC was far from cutting,” wrote Steve Englander of Standard Chartered Bank, “but did not sound particularly eager to hike further.”

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