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joined discussion01/06/2022 12:05

Fed warns faster rate rises may be needed to tame soaring inflation

The Federal Reserve may need to raise interest rates “sooner or at a faster pace” than officials had initially anticipated as the central bank seeks to tame soaring inflation, according to minutes from its latest meeting.

Minutes released on Wednesday from the December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee showed officials were fully on board with plans to accelerate the withdrawal of the massive bond-buying programme adopted at the onset of the pandemic. Doing so would give the central bank greater flexibility to raise interest rates this year.

The account of the meeting provided additional detail on why the Fed abruptly pivoted in late 2021 to embrace a more aggressive approach to withdrawing its unprecedented support for financial markets.

A sell-off in US stocks gathered pace after the minutes were released, with the S&P 500 closing down nearly 2 per cent on Wednesday while the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite was 3.3 per cent lower. Short-dated US government bonds also sold off, with the two-year yield at 0.82 per cent, its highest level since March 2020.

Kathy Bostjancic, chief US financial economist at Oxford Economics, said the minutes showed “rising discomfort with elevated inflation” among Fed officials, who appeared to be confident that the US economy will recover strongly despite the risk of the Omicron variant.

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