PanamaTimes

Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

US interest rates increase at their sharpest rate since 1994 in bid to tackle soaring inflation

US interest rates increase at their sharpest rate since 1994 in bid to tackle soaring inflation

"We’re not trying to induce a recession," the Fed chairman said, while warning of more rate rises to come and projecting a slowing economy in the months ahead.
The US central bank has increased interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point to combat inflation - the sharpest hike in 28 years.

The Federal Reserve signalled more rate rises to come and projected a slowing economy in the months ahead, along with growing unemployment.

This will make it costlier for people, businesses and governments to borrow - affecting credit card and mortgage payments.

The benchmark rate now stands at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, levels that have not been seen since before the pandemic began.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stressed that the US economy was strong enough to handle the hike, saying: "We're not trying to induce a recession."

He had previously ruled out such a high increase but the unexpected spike in inflation last month - which many had hoped had peaked - forced the bank to change course.

Data published on Friday showed the US Consumer Price Index hit a 40-year high of 8.6% in May, one of the highest in the world.

In a statement, the Federal Open Market Committee cited the impact of the war in Ukraine and lockdown policies in China on soaring consumer prices.

Officials raised their forecasts for interest rates at the end of this year and next, expecting the median benchmark rate to climb to 3.4% by the end of 2022.

In March, that rate had been projected at 1.9%.

It is expected to reach 3.8% by the end of 2023, up from the March forecast of 2.8%.

The revision indicates that Fed officials expect inflation to last longer than they had before.

Mr Powell said he did not expect hikes of three-quarters of a percentage point to be "common".

The tightening of monetary policy was accompanied by a downgrade to the Fed's economic outlook, with the economy now seen slowing to a 1.7% rate of growth this year.

Unemployment is expected to increase to 3.7% by the end of 2022, hitting 4.1% in 2024.

Concerns about growing borrowing costs have prompted a sharp sell-off in bonds and stocks by investors, who anticipated Wednesday's interest rate rise.

The S&P 500 entered bear market territory on Monday, having fallen 20% from its peak in January.

Other countries are also hiking interest rates to combat inflation.

In the UK, the Bank of England is expected to increase its rate by 0.25% to 1.25% on Thursday.
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