The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.75% for the third consecutive time as the central bank continues to try to tame multi-decade highs in inflation.
Three 75-basis-point rate hikes in a row is unprecedented since the Fed explicitly started targeting the federal funds rate to conduct monetary policy in the late 1980s.
The rate hike brings the central bank’s benchmark interest rate, the federal funds rate, to a new range of 3.0% to 3.25% — its highest level since 2008 — from a current range between 2.25% and 2.5%.
Stocks turned negative following the announcement before bouncing back as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell read prepared remarks and then falling to new lows shortly after the press conference ended.
In his prepared comments, Powell first stressed that "my colleagues and I are strongly committed to bringing inflation back down to our 2% goal." The Fed policy statement indicated a resilient economy with "modest growth in spending and production," an upgrade from July when officials saw softening.
During the question-and-answer session, Powell reiterated that "we are focused on... getting inflation back down to 2%. We can't fail to do that. I mean, if we were to fail to do that, that would be the thing that would be most painful for the people that we serve. So, for now, that has to be our overarching focus."
The Fed’s latest interest rate hike comes as inflation continues to surprise to the upside, and the Fed continues to see inflation elevated this year. Officials see inflation rising 5.4% overall this year and up 4.5% when excluding volatile food and energy prices. They expect inflation to drop to 2.8% or 3.1% on a core basis in 2023. Officials projected 2.3% in 2024, followed by 2% in 2025.
Fed Chair Powell also noted that a soft landing — where the economy avoids a recession as interest rates increase — will be very challenging and will depend on how quickly price pressures come down.
"If we want to set ourselves up, really light the way to another period of a very strong labor market, we have got to get inflation behind us," Powell told reporters. "I wish there was a painless way to do that. There isn't. What we need to do is get rates up to the point where we're putting meaningful downward pressure on inflation. And that's what we're doing."
The Fed will make interest rate decisions meeting by meeting, Powell noted, adding that at some point it will be appropriate to slow the pace of rate hikes.
Fed officials currently expect to raise rates higher than before and keep them at that level for longer. Officials see the fed funds rate rising to 4.4% by the end of this year and 4.6% by the end of 2023. That’s up from 3.4% for this year and 3.8% previously.