Soft Landings, Hard Choices

This week the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 50 bps at its December meeting, following four consecutive increases of 75 bps. That brings 2022’s number of hikes to seven. The Fed funds rate target now stands at 4.25% – 4.50%. It had begun the year at zero.

Critics worried the Fed took too long to grasp the systemic nature of inflation when it announced its abandonment of “transitory” over “permanent” as a descriptor of higher prices last November. Delay, they feared, would make it more difficult to get ahead of inflation without a rapid uptick that would throw the economy into a recession.

Regardless of how early or late the response, as our Chart of the Week depicts, this has been the fastest ascent in decades. We are closing in on the 5% terminal rate suggested by recent minutes as being the point at which a pause in hikes would be considered.