The Federal Reserve on Wednesday kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged for the second consecutive time, but left the door open to further increases if inflation pressures require it in the coming months. The Fed said in a statement after the meeting that it will keep its benchmark rate at 5.4%, the highest in 22 years. The central bank has launched its most aggressive series of rate hikes in four decades starting from March 2022 to combat inflation, but has only done so once since last May. The recent turmoil in financial markets has pushed long-term interest rates to their highest level in almost 16 years and contributed to an increase in credit costs throughout the economy, the statement said.
“It is likely that tighter credit conditions for households and businesses will affect economic activity,” the Fed said. Recently, Fed officials have said that higher yields on the 10-year Treasury bond could slow the economy, cool inflation, and make a new rate hike by the central bank unnecessary. Long-term Treasury yields have risen sharply since July, the last time the Fed raised rates, increasing the costs of loans for cars, credit cards, and many types of business loans. Nationally, the average long-term fixed rate for mortgages is approaching 8%, the highest in 23 years.
Wall Street bank economists have calculated that big losses in the stock market and higher bond yields could have an economic brake effect equivalent to the impact of three or four quarter-point increases by the Fed. But these credit adjustments have not yet cooled the economy or slowed job creation to the extent expected by the Fed. The growth was 4.9% annually in the July-September quarter, driven by consumer spending, and hiring in September was high. Last month there were 9.6 million job openings, the government reported on Wednesday, well below the peak last year, but well above pre-pandemic levels.
In conclusion, the Federal Reserve has decided to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged, but has indicated that the recent turmoil in financial markets may necessitate further increases to combat inflationary pressures. The impact of the recent rise in long-term interest rates and credit costs on the economy remains uncertain, with economists considering the potential effects on consumer spending, job creation, and overall economic growth. As the Fed continues to closely monitor economic conditions, uncertainties surrounding future rate hikes and their potential economic impact persist.