The Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors once again raises interest rates to try to fight inflation, but they’ve admitted what people who pay attention to economics already knew: the Board don’t really know what they are doing, or what effects their decisions will have. From The Wall Street Journal:
Officials signal a possible slowdown in the pace of rate rises by acknowledging how increases influence the economy with a lag
by Nick Timiraos | All Soul’s Day, November 2, 2022 | 2:31 PM EDT
WASHINGTON—The Federal Reserve lifted interest rates by 0.75 percentage point to combat inflation and signaled plans to keep raising them, though possibly in smaller increments.
Members of the Fed’s rate-setting committee acknowledged Wednesday that it could take time for their rate increases this year to be reflected in the economy, and they indicated they might reduce the size of coming hikes. “In determining the pace of future increases in the target range, the committee will take into account the cumulative tightening of monetary policy, the lags with which monetary policy affects economic activity and inflation,” they said in a statement released at the conclusion of their two-day meeting.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, at a news conference Wednesday, said officials could consider approving a smaller 0.5-percentage-point increase in December or January, but they had made no decision yet. He added, however, “The question of when to moderate the pace of increases is now much less important than the question of how high to raise rates and how long to keep monetary policy restrictive.”
Officials are boosting interest rates at the fastest pace since the early 1980s to reduce inflation that is running near a 40-year high. They have raised rates by 0.75 point at four consecutive meetings, with the latest one taking the central bank’s benchmark federal-funds to a range between 3.75% and 4%.
If the Board of Governors recognize that it takes time for their increases to do what they project will happen, why go for such large increases? Stock prices fell following release of the interest rate hike, even though the 75 basis point increase had been widely anticipated. Had the Fed increased the rate by only 50 basis points, stocks would almost certainly have risen, which would lift the value of the retirement accounts for most people. As it is, the Fed made retirees and those close to retirement age poorer, at least on paper.
Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates topped 7% last week, as Freddie Mac reported the average was 7.08%, rising from 6.94% the previous week. The last time rates were above 7.00% was in April of 2002. At this point in 2021, the average rate was 3.14%.¹ So, while the increase in home prices has moderated, the cost of buying a house is increasing due to the interest rate hikes.
The Fed wants to rein in inflation, but do so without causing a steep recession. Yet the Board of Governors keeps making 75 basis point increases — four in a row now — when they admit that they do not know exactly what the effects on the economy will be and that we won’t be able to see, or measure, them for a year.
The last time inflation was at the rates we have seen for the last year was during Jimmy Carter’s stagflation of the late 1970s into 1980. Inflation was beaten then the hard way: with a steep and painful recession in 1981-82. And that’s what will happen again, regardless of what the Fed tries to do.
¹ – As I previously noted, we bought a house last December, which was negotiated in November, and the interest rate would have been 2.75%. However, since we weren’t going to be living in the house — it’s rental property for my sister-in-law — the rate became 3.75%.
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