And the Fed is willing to do it again.
The U.S. Federal Reserve moved on Wednesday to boost interest rates by 75 basis points, marking the largest increase since 1994.
The larger-than-normal hike is the Fed’s attempt to tame larger-than-normal inflation, which runs at 8.6% annually. And the Fed signaled in its statement released Wednesday that it might keep up the bigger hikes to bring inflation down to its 2% target. The benchmark federal funds rate range now sits between 1.5% and 1.75%.
The specter of a larger-than-expected rate increase spooked investors during the early part of the week, sending all three major indices down. The S&P 500 fell into bear-market territory, slipping more than 20% from its January highs. The Fed’s decision to tighten monetary policy at a faster quip also comes after a slew of less-than-stellar economic stats reported over the past few weeks:
- Inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index, is running at 8.6% annually, the fastest price growth since 1981.
- With the average gas price above $5 per gallon, a week’s worth of gas costs 21% of a week’s worth of full-time, federal-minimum-wage earnings, according to The Balance.
- Retail sales in May slipped 0.3% before accounting for inflation, the first decline in 2022.
- Mortgage applications are down more than 15% over last year, per the Mortgage Bankers Association.
- Mortgage interest rates are at the highest levels since 2008. Jumbo loan rates are the highest they’ve been since the Fed started tracking them in 2017.
It’s too soon to say how markets, which had already priced in a 0.75-percentage-point increase before the announcement, are responding to the news. More to come in this weekend’s MNE MKR.