Federal Reserve officials might debate a historic one percentage-point rate hike later this month after another searing inflation report, which cemented odds on a 75-basis point move and was seen keeping the same again on the table for September.
Investors upped bets the central bank could raise rates by 100 basis points at its July 26-27 meeting—which would be the largest increase of the modern Fed era—with futures pricing a one-in-three chance after consumer prices rose a hotter-than-forecast 9.1% in the year through June.
“I think they have time, if they want, to change that expectation to 100. I don’t think they’ve given us a great reason why they should be going slow here, or being gradual,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JP Morgan Chase.
“If you do in fact get 100 in July and 75 in September, then I think the growth outlook for later in the year probably deteriorates. Right now I’m inclined to think that the main impact might be to motivate more front loading by the Fed,” he said.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell told reporters last month after the central bank raised rates by 75 basis points that either a 50- or 75 basis-point increase was likely in July. A majority of his colleagues since then have either echoed his line or endorsed the bigger move.
Fed Governor Christopher Waller is scheduled to speak on Thursday, while Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and his St. Louis colleague James Bullard both have events on Friday. After that they enter their pre-meeting blackout period.
Central banks globally are confronting unprecedented inflation, prompting historic rate hikes from Hungary to Pakistan. The Bank of Canada on Wednesday increased rates by a surprise full percentage point amid fears that decades-high price pressures are becoming entrenched.
“The Fed is right to worry about the unmooring of inflation expectations—and this report raises the chance of an even larger rate hike than 75 basis points down the line,” economists Anna Wong and Andrew Husby wrotes in a note for Bloomberg Economics.
Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, said it made sense to price in some risk of a larger Fed move, but saw it as unlikely without explicit communication from the central bank.
“The hawks had to have agreed to the guidance of 50 to 75, with the understanding that if we got an upside print, 75 would be the number,” he said. “They have time to communicate if they want to put that message out there.”
The U.S. central bank has pivoted to aggressive policy tightening to confront the highest inflation in 40 years, which critics say was egged on by policymakers’ slow initial response. They raised rates by 75 basis points last month—the largest increase since 1994—despite previously signaling that they were on track for a smaller half-point move.
“After what happened in June, I do not rule anything out,’ said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities. “I had been thinking that the Fed would decelerate to a 50-basis-point-per-meeting pace beginning in September, but if the next two monthly inflation numbers look like May’s and June’s, all bets are off.”