According to minutes released Wednesday from the central bank’s December meeting, Federal Reserve officials are committed to fighting inflation and expect higher interest rates to remain in place until more progress is made. During a meeting where policymakers raised their key interest rate another half percentage point, they stressed the importance of maintaining restrictive policy while inflation remains unacceptably high. “Participants generally observed that a restrictive policy stance would need to be maintained until the incoming data provided confidence that inflation was on a sustained downward path to 2 percent, likely to take some time,” the meeting summary stated. “In view of the persistent and unacceptably high level of inflation, several participants commented that historical experience cautioned against prematurely loosening monetary policy.”
The increase ended a streak of four consecutive three-quarter point rate hikes while taking the target range for the benchmark fed funds rate to 4.25%-4.5%, its highest level in 15 years. Officials also said they would focus on data as they move forward and see “the need to retain flexibility and optionality” regarding policy. Officials further cautioned that the public shouldn’t read too much into the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee’s move to step down the pace of increases. “A number of participants emphasized that it would be important to clearly communicate that a slowing in the pace of rate increases was not an indication of any weakening of the Committee’s resolve to achieve its price-stability goal or a judgment that inflation was already on a persistent downward path,” the minutes said. Following the meeting, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell indicated that while there has been some progress made in the battle against inflation, he saw only halting signs and expects rates to hold at higher levels even after the increases cease. The minutes reflected those sentiments, noting that no FOMC members expect rate cuts in 2023, despite market pricing.