Market Watch: Fed declines to hike, but points to rates staying higher for longer

  • The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady, while also indicating it still expects one more hike before the end of the year and fewer cuts than previously indicated next year.
  • Along with the rate projections, the Fed also sharply revised up its economic growth expectations for this year, with gross domestic product now expected to rise 2.1% this year.
  • In addition to holding rates at relatively high levels, the Fed is continuing to reduce its bond holdings, a process that has cut the central bank balance sheet by some $815 billion since June 2022

Markets had fully priced in no move at this meeting, which kept the fed funds rate in a targeted range between 5.25%-5.5%, the highest in some 22 years. The rate fixes what banks charge each other for overnight lending but also spills over into many forms of consumer debt.

While the no-hike was expected, there was considerable uncertainty over where the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee would go from here. Judging from documents released Wednesday, the bias appears toward more restrictive policy and a higher-for-longer approach to interest rates.

That outlook weighed on the market, with the S&P 500 falling nearly 1% and the Nasdaq Composite off 1.5%. Stocks oscillated as Fed Chair Jerome Powell took questions during a news conference.

“We’re in a position to proceed carefully in determining the extent of additional policy firming,” Powell said.