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Fed hikes key rate, unveils bond trimming plans

15 Juin 2017

Better growth overseas also raised optimism. The unemployment rate, at 4.3%, is at its lowest level since 2001. The initial cap will be set at $10 billion a month: $6 billion from Treasuries and $4 billion from mortgage-backed securities. That rate is closely tied to interest rates on mortgages and other kinds of loans.

The amount of assets soared from about $925 billion before the financial crisis hit as the Fed started to buy securities to try to stimulate the economy. If inflation doesn't pick up, he said, the Fed will find that raising rates and reducing its balance sheet is "going to be a hard maneuver".

"If the economy performs about as expected, I would view it as appropriate to continue to gradually raise rates", said James Powell, a member of the Fed's Board of Governors and a member of the committee that determines interest rates, in a speech earlier this month.

The Fed also issued updated economic forecasts that showed it foresees one additional rate increase this year to follow Wednesday's increase and an earlier rate hike in March.

"The rate hike is anticipated to be a foregone conclusion, but the market will be looking for more information on the Fed's inflation forecast, balance-sheet reduction programme and projection of further rate hikes", said Rand Merchant Bank analyst Gordon Kerr.

Fed officials voted to move forward with both moves despite some wobbly economic data lately indicating that growth won't reach the lofty 3 percent projections from the Trump White House. In the longer run, policy makers see the jobless rate at 4.6%, down slightly from 4.7% in March. The change is because the investors are waiting for the clarity on the Federal Reserve's future path after a likely rate rise later in the day for US policy. Policymakers also released their latest set of quarterly economic forecasts which showed temporary concern about inflation and continued confidence about economic growth in the coming years.They forecast US economic growth of 2.2 percent in 2017, an increase from the previous projection in March. Fed officials project growth of roughly 2 percent in 2017. "It's dovish in that they acknowledge the data has softened and they haven't dismissed the weaker inflation readings as being merely transitory". Only Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Fed bank, opposed the increase.

The Bank of Japan and the Bank of England also hold monetary policy meetings late this week. It's this chart that provides the current expectation of three rate increases during 2017. This marks the third increase this fiscal year, with previous hikes in December 2016 and again in March of this year.

"While softer inflation boosts real earnings growth, it also implies more slack in the economy, providing the Fed space to move even more slowly", Neil Dutta, head of USA economics at Renaissance Macro Research LLC in NY, said in a note.

Since then, inflation has ticked lower, due only in part to an idiosyncratic decline in wireless phone plans.

The central bank now believes inflation will fall well short of its 2 percent target this year.

US retail sales recorded their biggest drop in 16 months, while consumer prices fell unexpectedly in May, raising questions about the Fed's ability to further tighten monetary policy. As a result, economists at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. expect core prices measured by the Fed's preferred inflation to show an annual gain of less than 1.4% in May.

The Fed, tasked with promoting full employment and healthy inflation, was forced to deal with an unusual dilemma - the unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest in 16 years, but inflation has weakened below the Fed's 2% target rate.

European shares pulled back on Wednesday, as energy stocks fell on tumbling crude prices and banks were hit after weak US data raised questions over future rate hikes in the world's biggest economy. Fed funds futures market had been giving another move this year just a 35 percent chance, according to the CME.

That signals the Fed's "post-meeting statement will have to take the recent slowing in core inflation more seriously", Mike Feroli, chief USA economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., wrote in a report'.

Fed hikes key rate, unveils bond trimming plans