Roundtable Weekly
Fed Raises Interest Rates, Signals More Hikes, Boosts Economic Forecasts
May 31, 2019

In the Federal Reserve's first major decision under new Chairman Jerome Powell, the central bank on Wednesday raised the federal funds rate 25 basis points (to a range of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent) and boosted its U.S. economic growth forecast for 2018 and 2019.  (Federal Reserve Statement and Projections, March 21).

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell held his first news conference since becoming Chairman, echoing the Federal Open Market Committee's views on a strengthened economic outlook in recent months.

During a week when the Trump Administration slapped $50 billion in trade tariffs on China, followed by a 724 point plunge in the Dow Jones Index, the Fed also voted unanimously to approve a 25-basis-point increase in the primary credit rate to 2.25 percent, affecting what commercial banks and other depository institutions pay on loans from regional Federal Reserve Banks.

The Fed is expected to lift the rate two or three more times this year, and three times next year, citing a strengthening labor market and moderately rising economic activity, partnered with a consistent low unemployment rate, as reasons for further hikes. (Reuters and Federal Reserve Statement, March 21).

Chairman Powell held his first news conference since becoming Fed Chairman, echoing the Federal Open Market Committee's views on a strengthened economic outlook in recent months, “Fiscal policy has become more simulative, ongoing job gains are boosting incomes and confidence, foreign growth is on a firm trajectory, and overall financial conditions remain accommodative.” (The Washington Post, March 21)

Fed officials significantly changed their economic forecast from their previous projection done before the Tax Cuts Jobs and Act passed in December, with GDP for 2018 originally at 2.5 percent increased to 2.7 percent, and increased the 2019 expectation from 2.1 percent to 2.4 percent.  (The Washington Post, March 21).

“The job market remains strong, the economy continues to expand, and inflation appears to be moving toward the FOMC’s 2 percent longer running goal,” said Powell. (Bloomberg, March 21)

The Federal Reserve will hold their next meeting in early May.