Many economists think the Fed will formally announce a pullback in November, in response to a steady recovery from the pandemic recession and an acceleration in inflation that has raised widespread concerns. This week’s Fed policy meeting could lay the groundwork for that announcement.
Fed officials are set to keep their short-term benchmark interest rate, which affects many consumer and business loans, near zero. They are also likely maintain their $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, which are intended to hold down long-term loan rates. In December, the Fed said it would continue those purchases until the economy had made “substantial further progress” toward its goals of maximum employment and annual inflation averaging 2% over time.
In a speech last month, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said such progress had already been met for inflation, with prices having spiked this year amid shortages of manufactured goods and components, from cars and computer chips to paint and building materials.
Powell also said “clear progress” had been achieved in job growth and that if hiring remained healthy, it “could be appropriate” to start reducing the bond purchases this year. A surprisingly weak August jobs report made it less likely that the Fed would formally announce a reduction in September and more likely it would do so in November or December.
The central bank could signal in a statement it will release after its meeting ends that it plans to soon announce a reduction in the pace of its bond purchases, and Powell could reinforce that message in a news conference to follow.
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