The Federal Reserve left its benchmark interest rate unchanged this week, pausing an aggressive inflation fight amid growing optimism that the United States can achieve normal price levels without falling into a recession.
The central bank expects to raise rates one more time this year, according to projections included alongside a statement from the Federal Open Market Committee, FOMC, the Fed's decision-making body on interest rates. Interest rates will begin to come down next year, the projections said.
The projections also reflected a sunnier outlook for U.S. economic performance, setting expectations for economic growth next year at 2.1%. In June, the FOMC had predicted that the economy would grow just 1% in 2024.
Meanwhile, inflation stands well below its peak last year of over 9%, but remains more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate.
Given how far we have come, we’re in a position to proceed carefully as we assess the incoming data and the evolving outlook and risks, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a press conference in Washington D.C.
Even so, the Fed remains far from achieving its target inflation rate of 2%, Powell added. The process of getting inflation sustainably down to 2% has a long way to go, Powell said.
The decision to hold interest rates steady affords policymakers time to weigh their next move as a rapid series of previous rate hikes takes full effect.
The Fed wants to get more information to calibrate when exactly they want to stop raising rates, William English, a professor of finance at Yale University and a former Fed official said. There's a lot of uncertainty.
The Fed achieved the cool down with its most aggressive set of rate hikes in more than two decades, making borrowing costs more expensive for everything from homes to boats in an effort to choke off demand and ease price hikes.
Still, resilient economic performance has elicited a surge of optimism about the possibility that the U.S. can reduce inflation without falling into a recession.
Economic activity has been stronger than we expected -- stronger than just about anybody expected, Powell said on Wednesday.
In July, Powell said the central bank's staff had abandoned its forecast of a downturn. Staff at the Fed, in other words, now expect the central bank to achieve a soft landing.
In recent months, however, that glide path has run into turbulence.
Inflation in usx has ticked up for two consecutive months, reversing some of the progress made in the effort to bring price increases down to normal levels. Meanwhile, oil prices have soared, threatening to push inflation even higher.