The Federal Reserve is expected to hold off on raising interest rates for the first time in 11 policy meetings on Wednesday. But investors are betting that the pause will not last.
The pattern of stopping and then speeding up again is becoming well established around the world. Reserve Bank of Australia suspended his own campaign it has raised rates again only twice earlier this year, including last week. The Bank of Canada left rates unchanged for four months before picking them up again in a surprising move on June 7.
That’s because inflation is proving to be stubborn. Across a range of economies, from Melbourne to Munich to Miami, it was hard to beat. Many central banks are struggling with rate hikes that are only slowly easing, fueled by higher costs for services that include things like concert tickets, rent and hotel rooms.
“Everybody has a similar problem,” said William English, a former Fed staffer now at Yale University, noting that policymakers in Britain and the eurozone are facing inflation problems that have much to do with the Fed. European Central Bank policymakers also met this week and are expected to continue raising rates.
Policy may become more difficult to predict in the coming months as officials try to assess whether interest rates are high enough to ensure their economies slow enough to curb price growth.
“We’re in a period where we’re kind of fumbling,” Mr. English said. “It will be a period of considerable uncertainty.”
The Fed has already raised rates sharply over the past 15 months, just above 5 percent in May, and those higher interest rates are trickling down through the economy.
in recent speechesFed officials have indicated they may soon “skip” a rate hike to give them time to assess the impact of their changes so far, and investors they bet that Fed officials will hold policy steady at their meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday before raising rates one more time in July. But these predictions are uncertain: Traders usually have a fairly clear idea of what the Fed might do at its meetings, but this time markets see a small but real chance that U.S. central bankers will raise rates this week.
Doubts are partly related to the fact that the Fed will receive a key inflation measure, the consumer price index, on Tuesday. But it also reflects what a difficult time this is for economic policy in the United States and around the world.
This is the worst episode of inflation in America and many of its peer economies since the 1970s and 1980s, so it’s been a long time since the world’s policymakers grappled with the problem. And while inflation is weakening, it has also shown its staying power.
In the United States and elsewhere, inflation began in goods such as cars and furniture but moved to services such as plane tickets, education and haircuts. This is worrying because utility price increases tend to be driven by general economic trends rather than one-off supply issues and may be more permanent.
“Service price inflation appears to be persistent here and overseas,” Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe said. in speech explaining the central bank’s surprise move last week.
Fed officials worried that today’s rate hike could prove sticky.
Wage gains remain fairly brisk, which could limit how quickly prices fall as employers struggle to cover rising labor bills. And while the slowdown in rent growth should cool headline inflation, some economists have questioned whether it will be enough to keep inflation down.
“The recovery in the housing market raises questions about how durable these lower rent increases will be,” said Christopher Waller, the Fed governor who often favors higher interest rates. recent speech.
At the same time, central bankers want to avoid plunging the economy into a recession that is more painful than necessary.
That’s why the Fed may be stalling this week. Officials recognize that monetary policy takes months or years to take full effect. And recent banking riots could further slow borrowing and spending, officials are still monitoring the situation.
“Anecdotally, it’s actually not that bad — but we don’t have enough survey data either,” said Jelena Shulyatyeva, senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas. Will be watching for more evidence Dallas Fed Bank survey this month.
Still, after Australia and Canada raised rates last week, investors were wondering: Could this mean the Fed will also be more aggressive than expected?
“It’s a mistake to make simplistic comparisons,” said Krishna Guha, head of the global central bank policy and strategy team at Evercore ISI, adding that the Fed still seemed likely to pause in June while it considered a possible move in July. While the rate hikes abroad underscored that inflation is proving sticky globally, he said it was no surprise.
“We know inflation has been frustratingly slow to come down,” he said.