The US Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee has boosted its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points, the first increase in over three years as the policymaking body seeks to rein in near-record inflation. The new rate will run between .25% and .5%.
In addition to the rate hike announced Wednesday, six more are planned throughout 2022, according to a statement from the privately-owned institution.
The Fed noted it “seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2% over the long run,” insisting the unemployment rate would finish out the year at a reasonable 3.5%. As of February, it stood at 3.8%.
The Fed also announced it plans to start offloading Treasury securities, agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in the near future. Chairman Jerome Powell told journalists after the meeting that the central bank could begin selling those assets as soon as May, producing the equivalent of another rate hike, which he was quick to pin on Russia.
Powell insisted the committee was “determined to take the measures necessary to restore price stability,” acknowledging the “risks of further upward pressure on inflation and inflation expectations.”
While the White House had initially claimed the soaring US inflation was only “transitory,” the Fed later admitted the problem was more serious than they believed and have belatedly attempted to wrestle it into submission.
Individual committee members admitted they expect higher-than-usual inflation, “reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures,” while projected GDP was downgraded from 4% to 2.8% – a drop blamed on the conflict in Ukraine.
“In the near term the invasion and related events are likely to create additional upward pressure on inflation and weigh on economic activity,” the committee said, acknowledging that beyond the “tremendous human and economic hardship,” they were uncertain what the conflict between Russia and Ukraine would ultimately bring.