The latest pickups in consumer prices and inflation expectations will probably spur Federal Reserve officials to consider the biggest interest-rate increase since 1994 when they meet this week, after Chair Jerome Powell previously signaled a smaller move was the likely outcome.
US central bankers conclude a two-day meeting on Wednesday, with a decision due at 2 p.m. in Washington. Powell indicated at his post-meeting press conference in early May that the Fed would move forward with half-point rate hikes in June and July as long as economic data came in as expected. It was an unusually precise steer by the Fed chair.
But in the past few days, inflation figures have surprised to the high side, pushing investors to increase bets on a 75 basis-point increase at this week’s meeting, pricing in interest-rate futures shows. Those bets hardened on Monday afternoon following a report in the Wall Street Journal suggesting the larger move was now in play.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Nomura Holdings Inc. both shifted on Monday to forecast 75 basis point hikes this week and at the Fed’s meeting in late July. JPMorgan Chase & Co. also went to 75 basis points at this week’s meeting, joining Barclays Plc and Jefferies, who modified their calls Friday to the larger increase.
On Friday morning, data showed the consumer price index rose 8.6% in May from a year earlier, a fresh 40-year high. The figures topped all estimates and underscored a broad-based advance, a sign that price pressures are becoming entrenched in the economy.
Later in the morning, University of Michigan data showed US consumer sentiment in early June dropped to the lowest on record. Respondents also said they expect inflation of 3.3% over the next five to 10 years, the most since 2008 and up from 3% in May.
A 75 basis-point increase could boost credibility by showing the Fed’s serious about its inflation credibility. But it also risks confusing markets about what they do next. Such a move could also erode Fed credibility by underscoring how poor the Fed’s forecasting has been in the post-pandemic recovery.