Back on January 26–a date so far in the past as to be positively neolithic if judged by changes in financial data–according to minutes of that central bank meeting related today, February 16, Federal Reserve officials concluded that they would start raising interest rates soon and were on alert for persistent inflation that would justify a faster pace of tightening.
Since then, CPI inflation has jumped to an annual 7.5% in January and employers have added almost 500,000 new jobs.
The markets have no doubt that the Fed will raise interest rates at its March 16 meeting and has strongly moved to favor a 50 basis point increase in the Fed Funds rate rather than the traditional 25 basis point move.
The financial markets now price in 150 basis points of interest rate increases in 2022. (It takes 100 basis points to make up one percentage point.) That would take the Fed’s short-term benchmark interest rate to 1.50% to 1.75% from the current 0% to 0.25% range.
Considering that there are only seven more Fed meetings in 2022, a 150 basis points of higher interest rates would require the central bank to increase interest rates by 25 basis points at all but one meeting in 2022.
The minutes did not include any new details on when the Fed will begin to reduce the size of its balance sheet by not buying new Treasuries to replace those in its portfolio that mature The Fed has already indicated that it will end its program to purchase of Treasuries and mortgage-backed assets in March.
No surprisingly the Fed minutes didn’t move stocks today.
In fact very little did.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed the day ahead just 0.09%, the Dow dropped 0.16%, the NASDAQ Composite retreated 0.11%, and the small cap Russell 2000 picked up 0.14%