Federal Reserve officials unlikely to reduce interest rates this year



Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. EPA


© Eric Lee
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell. EPA

Officials at the US Federal Reserve are unlikely to cut back on last year’s historic interest rate increases as inflation remains a concern in 2023, according to minutes of the central bank’s December meeting that were released on Wednesday.

They showed that the central bank was concerned that inflation was 7.1 per cent year on year in November 2022, well above the Fed’s long-term goal of 2 per cent.

“No participants anticipated that it would be appropriate to begin reducing the federal funds rate target in 2023,” the minutes read.

The Fed raised interest rates to between 4.25 and 4.5 per cent in its December 13-14 meeting. It is the highest level at which rates have been in 15 years.

Minutes showed banking officials would be willing to scale back the size of its interest-rate rises but also said that history warned against being too quick to loosen monetary policy.

“Most participants emphasised the need to retain flexibility and optionality when moving policy to a more restrictive stance,” the minutes read.

But slowing the rate of interest increases would not be “an indication of any weakening” of the Fed’s intent on tackling inflation, it said.

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said last month that the central bank anticipated the federal funds rate to end 2023 at 5.1 per cent, before dropping to 4.1 per cent next year.

And job-openings data released by the Department of Labour earlier on Wednesday showed little change in November.

Job openings at the final business day of the month were at 10.5 million, or 1.7 for every unemployed person.

Mr Powell has repeatedly stressed that the labour market remains tight, when employees are scarce but there are many job openings.

A tight labour market can drive up inflation because job seekers use it to negotiate higher wages, which leads to increased spending.

Stocks began to rebound after losing gains earlier in the day before the Fed’s minutes were released.

The S&P 500 was up 0.75 per cent as of 4:10pm ET, the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.69 per cent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.40 per cent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report