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Fed Chair Jerome Powell Sees 'Bumpy' Inflationary Road Ahead: Markets Tip Toward 0.5% March Rate Increase

Benzinga logo Benzinga 3/7/2023 Adam Eckert
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The SPDR S&P 500 (NYSE: SPY) is sliding Tuesday morning in the wake of the Federal Reserve's semiannual Monetary Policy Report, which appears to show the central bank has taken an incrementally more hawkish stance.

Powell's Economic Observations: Fed Chair Jerome Powell reiterated the committee's goal of getting inflation back down to 2%. Powell also acknowledged the committee is aware that continued high inflation is causing significant hardships.

"We have covered a lot of ground, and the full effects of our tightening so far are yet to be felt. Even so, we have more work to do," Powell said in a Tuesday statement to the  Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Recent data is moving in the wrong direction, the Fed chair noted, adding that inflationary pressures are running higher than previously expected at the Fed's last meeting.

Powell also highlighted a lack of disinflation signs in core services excluding housing. 

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"To restore price stability, we will need to see lower inflation in this sector, and there will very likely be some softening in labor market condition," Powell said, suggesting the central bank will be more aggressive in the fight against historically high inflation.

Monetary Policy Response: The Fed maintained its stance that ongoing increases in the target range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate. The Fed also plans to continue to significantly reduce the size of its balance sheet.

"We will continue to make our decisions meeting by meeting, taking into account the totality of incoming data and their implications for the outlook for economic activity and inflation," Powell said.

The Fed Chair added that getting inflation back down to 2% is likely to be "bumpy" and said the process still has "a long way to go." Recent data suggests the ultimate level of interest rates will be higher than the committee previously anticipated. 

The Fed raised rates by 0.25% in its last meeting and the market had been pricing in a subsequent 0.25% hike, but recent data has changed sentiment and the market is currently projecting a 54.3% chance of a 0.5% rate hike at the Fed's next meeting later this month, per CME Group data.

"If the totality of the data were to indicate that faster tightening is warranted, we would be prepared to increase the pace of rate hikes," Powell said.

"The historical record cautions strongly against prematurely loosening policy. We will stay the course until the job is done."

SPY Price Action: The SPY is down 0.67% at $401.85 at the time of publication, according to Benzinga Pro.

Photo: courtesy of the Federal Reserve.


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