Under the leadership of Chair Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve is set to take an abrupt shift towards stricter interest-rate policies, with unemployment dropping and inflation rising more quickly than anticipated.
According to a report, the Fed will likely announce today that it will decrease its bond purchases per month at a rate twice as the one Powell had announced just six weeks prior. The bond purchases are designed to reduce rates for longer terms. Therefore, reducing them faster (possibly in the early spring) will reduce some of the Fed’s economic assistance when the pandemic broke out in 2020.
Fed officials are expected to announce that they will increase the benchmark short-term rate at least two or three times next year. The rate hikes will raise the range of borrowing expenses, including for mortgages, credit cards, and even business loans. Three months ago, the Fed had anticipated just one rate hike in 2022.
The Fed’s shift comes after consumer inflation hit a record high of four decades in November. It is a sign of increasing recognition among Powell and other decision-makers that the economy isn’t performing in the manner they thought it would just a few months back.
Through the majority of 2021, they had estimated that inflation was “transitory” and were more worried that unemployment would not be falling as quickly as expected. However, significant price increases have spread beyond the pandemic-ravaged industries of autos, electronics, and construction materials, into the menus of restaurants, rents, and medical services.
Inflation is now a significant burden for many American households, particularly those who struggle to pay for food and fuel prices, and is a major cause of discontent among the public about president Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress.
Fed officials continue to expect inflation to slow through the second half of next year. But they believe there is a substantial possibility that the high cost of living will remain. The likelihood of this was bolstered by a report issued by the government in which wholesale inflation rose 9.6 percent in the twelve months that ended in November, the fastest annual rate, according to records from 2010.
The unemployment rate also decreased rapidly since Fed policymakers‘ last meeting in November, dropping 4.8 percent to 4.2 percent. This indicates that the economy is resilient and moving closer to achieving the maximum level of employment, which is one of the Fed’s two mandates and price stability.
Powell declared in congressional testimony two weeks ago that the Fed is likely to speed up the tapering of bond purchases. Experts are now expecting the tapering to finish by March rather than Powell’s earlier date for June. This will permit the Fed to raise rates earlier next year if it decides to combat inflation.