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US Fed officials tentative on interest rate adjustments with concerns on inflation 

May 23, 2024

Key Points: 

  • Fed officials indicated a willingness to raise rates again if inflation persists. 
  • The Fed maintained its benchmark interest rate at 5.25%-5.5%. 
  • The US Dollar Index (Symbol: USDX) strengthened on hawkish Fed minutes. 
  • Market reactions include a drop in stocks and steady 10-year Treasury yields. 

The US dollar index gained strength following hawkish comments in the minutes from the last FOMC meeting on Wednesday. The minutes revealed that Fed officials are open to raising interest rates again if inflation does not cool off further.  

Picture: The US Dollar Index showing some strength, as observed on the VT Markets app. 

At the meeting, the Fed maintained its benchmark interest rate at 5.25%-5.5%. However, officials expressed disappointment over recent inflation data, which they found to be more persistent than anticipated. This has led to a more cautious stance on future rate cuts.  

The minutes also revealed that Fed officials were particularly concerned about the slow decline in housing and labor costs, two major contributors to current inflation. Some officials suggested that the growing US economy could keep consumer demand high enough to maintain elevated prices. As a result, the Fed assessed that it would take longer to gain confidence that inflation would move toward the 2% target. 

Unsure about how restrictive should the Fed be 

Despite maintaining a restrictive policy stance, many Fed officials were uncertain about the degree of restrictiveness, noting that high interest rates might have smaller effects than in the past. In their policy discussions, Fed officials considered holding rates for a longer period if inflation remains sticky or cutting them if there is unexpected weakening in the labor market.

This stance is more hawkish compared to the March meeting when officials believed the policy rate was likely at its peak for this tightening cycle. 

Related article: Market implications from the US dollar decline 

How other markets responded 

Following the release of the minutes, the stock market reacted negatively, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Symbol: DJ30), NASDAQ (Symbol: NAS400) and S&P500 (Symbol: SP500) dropping. However, the yield on the 10-year Treasury notes (Symbol: USNote10Y) remained steady, trading below 5% since the press conference of Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on May 1. 

What to look out for next 

The US Dollar Index may continue to rise if its upcoming economic data supports further rate hikes. Any signs of improving inflation could lead to a reversal. In relation to this, strength of the US dollar could lead to pressure on other currencies pairs, particularly the Euro (Symbol: EURUSD) and Japanese Yen (Symbol: USDJPY). 

The stock market may continue to experience volatility due to the cautious stance from the Fed on rate cuts and persistent inflation concerns. On the other hand, treasury yields might remain steady or even decline if inflation data shows signs of improvement, reducing the likelihood of further rate hikes. 

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