Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell attends the House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 30, 2021.
Al Drago | Reuters
The committee that sets interest rates for the Federal Reserve released the minutes from the November meeting where it first signaled that it could be dialing back all the economic help it’s been providing during the pandemic.
Following the two-day session that concluded Nov. 3, the Federal Open Market Committee indicated it will begin cutting back on the monthly bond-buying program that had seen it purchasing at least $120 billion in Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities.
The goal of the program was to keep money flowing in those markets while maintaining broader interest rates at low levels to boost economic activity.
In its post-meeting statement, the FOMC said “substantial further progress” in the economy would allow a $15 billion a month reduction in purchases — $10 billion in Treasurys and $5 billion in MBS. The statement said that pace would be maintained through at least December and probably continue going forward until the program wound down – likely by late spring or early summer 2022.
Investors, though, were awaiting the minutes for a deeper glimpse into what would prompt the Fed to move even more quickly in pulling back stimulus.
That’s important because inflation has gotten even hotter since the November meeting. In previous cycles, the Fed has raised interest rates to cool the economy, but officials have said they are willing to allow inflation to run hotter than normal to let the employment picture improve.
Markets, though, are anticipating a more aggressive Fed. Traders in contracts that bet on the future of short-term rates are indicating the Fed will raise its benchmark rate three times in 2022 in25 basis point intervals, though current official projections are for no more than one hike next year. However, those markets are volatile and can change quickly depending on the signals the Fed sends.
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