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Most Fed members backed future rate hike, Fed September minutes show

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– Most Federal Reserve policymakers agreed that one more rate hikes would be “appropriate” and emphasized the need to keep interest rates higher for longer as inflation continues to trend well above the central bank’s 2% target, the Fed’s September meeting minutes showed Wednesday.      

“A majority of participants judged that one more increase in the target federal funds rate at a future meeting would likely be appropriate, while some judged it likely that no further increases would be warranted,” the Fed minutes showed. 

At the meeting, the Fed held steady, and members doubled down on the central bank’s plan to keep rates elevated for much longer than previously expected after maintaining their forecast for another rate hike this year and reducing the number of rate cuts expected in 2024 to just two from four previously.

Fed members backed one more hike, but a lot has changed since September meeting

In the weeks since the Fed meeting, however, remarks from some members are now leaning more cautiously on further rate hikes following a sharp rise in Treasury yields, particularly longer-term rates, that have tightened financial conditions and are expected to dent growth, helping the Fed to curb inflation.

The yield on the and touched a 16-year high of 4.8% and 5.0% respectively last week, as the Fed’s higher- rate- for- longer message bolstered the term premium, or the compensation for the risk of holding a long bond given uncertainty about interest rate changes.

Fed members are “in a position to proceed carefully in assessing the extent of any additional policy firming that may be necessary,” Federal Reserve Vice Chair Philip Jefferson said Monday in remarks prepared for a speech at a National Association for Business Economics conference in Dallas.

“I will remain cognizant of the tightening in financial conditions through higher bond yields and will keep that in mind as I assess the future path of policy,” Jefferson added.

While expectations for a rate hike in November remain low at 12%, according to ’s , the due Thursday could all but seal the decision. 

“It’s the last CPI reading before the next FOMC decision on November 1st and therefore it could be impactful to markets that are pricing little to no chance at a hike at that meeting,” Scotiabank Economics said in a recent note. 

Fed funds rate closing in on restrictive territory  

in a sign that the Fed is nearing the end game on rate hikes, several members suggested that the focus should shift from rate hikes to how long rates should be held at restrictive levels. 

“Several participants commented that, with the policy rate likely at or near its peak, the focus of monetary policy decisions and communications should shift from how high to raise the policy rate to how long to hold the policy rate at restrictive levels,” the minutes showed.

A few participants noted that the real federal funds rate — the current fed funds rate adjusted for inflation — could serve as a useful measure of the stance of monetary policy over time, suggesting that inflation rather than economic growth will continue to dominate Fed policy. 

“A few participants noted that the pace at which inflation was returning to the Committee’s 2 percent goal would influence their views of the sufficiently restrictive level of the policy rate and how long to keep policy restrictive,” the Fed minutes showed. 

Shift to easing stance may not mark end of quantitative tightening 

The recent surge in rates — expected to help the Fed’s tightened financial conditions — has encouraged bets that the Fed could start cutting rates as soon as June next year. About expect a rate cut in June. 

But even if the Fed were to proceed with rate cuts next year, the wouldn’t mark the end of tightening policy measures as its quantitative tightening program — the sale of bonds on its balance sheet — could likely persist.

“Several participants noted that the process of balance sheet runoff could continue for some time, even after the Committee begins to reduce the target range for the federal funds rate.”

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