The last time the Federal Reserve cut interest rates was in March 2020, right before the global economy was turned upside down by a pandemic. Since then, the Fed has been hiking the federal funds rate — or the rate at which the Fed lends to banks — to tame high inflation and to loosen the labor market. The central bank started raising interest rates in 2022 as inflation spiked, lifting the federal funds rate from nearly 0 to 5.5% — the highest it’s been in more than two decades.
Why Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley might be buys in 2024 | Smart Investing
The Fed on Wednesday signaled that interest rate cuts aren’t imminent, leaving them unchanged for now.
One hurdle to lowering interest rates is inflation—which stands at 3.4% annually—remains higher than what the Fed normally sees as its target level of 2%.
There’s a growing chorus of Fed watchers who now forecast the next interest rate cut as coming in March.
Here’s what economists and business groups are saying:
“Ultimately, even if the Fed may not express much confidence about cutting soon, investors see a low bar to cut in March – with 2 payroll reports and 2 CPI reports between January and March FOMC meetings. As long as the Fed doesn’t forcefully rule out rate cuts in March, investors will stay interested in the possibility, and we do not see much lower movement from the 40% probability of a cut priced for March.”
“We continue to expect the first rate cut in March, though we expect no strong signal in January. The Fed needs to buy time to see more data.”
“Since the Fed began raising its overnight bank lending fed funds interest rate target in March 2022 from 0% to its current 5.25% to 5.50% range, inflation has trended substantially lower while economic data has surprised to the upside. While the Fed would like to begin “normalizing” the fed funds target to lower levels, they could delay rate cuts until after the March Fed meeting as the current fed funds target does not appear to be weighing on economic growth.”
“Fed officials are understandably unwilling to declare victory on inflation prematurely. But we think victory is at hand. The Fed’s preferred core PCE measure is telling a more positive story than CPI. And forward-looking measures suggest price pressures will continue to ease; data released today showed that wage growth slowed further in Q4, helping push the 10-year Treasury yield down about 10bp. So while the FOMC may not be quite there yet, we think the pieces will be in place for a cut in March. And we think it will subsequently ease a bit faster than investors seem to expect.”
“Even with the bump in inflation the Fed will likely hold interest rates where they are to allow more time for its previous rate increases to lower inflation.”