Minutes from the US Federal Reserves December 2021 policy meeting underpin officials hawkish pivot and suggest earlier and faster rate increases in addition to a quicker start to normalising the central banks massive balance sheetitself a form of policy tightening, Barrons reported.
The meeting minutes, released on Wednesday afternoon, follow the December 15 meeting where policy makers signalled three rate increases this year and three the following year as inflation concerns deepened, the report said.
After months of describing pricing pressures as “transitory”, the Fed dropped the term and spooked investors with new concerns just as a new variant of Covid-19 emerged.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell shifted his tone to emphasise the ongoing pandemic’s risks to inflation, via ongoing supply-chain issues, as opposed to growth, the report said.
Minutes from the meeting give investors more context into officials’ latest discussions. Participants “generally noted that, given their individual outlooks for the economy, the labour market, and inflation, it may become warranted to increase the federal funds rate sooner or at a faster pace than participants had earlier anticipated”, the minutes say.
Several participants, meanwhile, “viewed labour market conditions as already largely consistent with maximum employment”.
Taken together, those passages suggest the first rate increase could come as soon as March, the report said.
“Given the twin concerns of rising inflation and potential for negative growth surprises, you can see why they have urgency in completing their tapering as soon as possible, while still leaving optionality for the timing of the first rate hike,” says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance, Barron’s reported.