(Washington) The US central bank (Fed) raised its rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, as expected, still concerned about inflation, and despite turbulence in the banking sector which, it warned , are likely to “weigh” on the economy.
The Fed’s main policy rate is now in a range of 4.75-5.00%, the highest level since 2006, and the institution plans further hikes.
The Fed also warned in its statement that the recent banking crisis was “likely to weigh on economic activity, hiring and inflation”. “The magnitude of these effects is uncertain,” she said.
She reaffirmed, however, that “the US banking system (was) strong and resilient”, and that its monetary policy committee “remains attentive to inflation risks”.
Federal Reserve officials largely anticipate additional rate hikes in the coming months, but refer more broadly in the statement to “additional policy firming actions,” without mentioning rates specifically.
Bank chairman Jerome Powell is due to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m., with markets scrutinizing every word as they grasp the mighty Federal Reserve’s intentions for the months ahead.
The Fed also updated its economic forecasts on Wednesday, the last of which were published in December. It now anticipates inflation for 2023 at 3.6% against 3.5% previously, and for 2024 at 2.6% against 2.5%.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth forecasts have been revised down slightly, to 0.4% from 0.5% for 2023, and to 1.2% from 1.6% for 2024.
The mighty Fed faced a tough trade-off: keep raising its main policy rate to curb high inflation, or take a break to avoid aggravating the banks’ troubles, with market expectations showing hesitation on the subject. .
The bankruptcies of US regional banks Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), Signature Bank and Silvergate have created a wave of concern. Governments, central banks and regulators intervened urgently to try to restore confidence, the best weapon to avoid contagion.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated before a Senate committee on Wednesday that “the U.S. banking system is sound” and that “recent actions by the federal government have demonstrated our strong commitment to taking the necessary steps to ensure the security of savings of depositors”.
“It is important to be clear: shareholders and creditors of failing banks are not protected by the government. And no loss […] will be borne by the taxpayer,” also stressed Joe Biden’s Minister of Economy and Finance.
After two rebound sessions at the start of the week, European stock markets moved around equilibrium on Wednesday and ended on a mixed trend. Wall Street remained very cautious at midday, rising slightly.
“The pressure on banking sector stocks seems to be easing after the actions of regulators to restore confidence”, commented on Tuesday Rubeela Farooqi, chief economist for HFE, who does not however rule out the risk of “fear of new bankruptcies and ‘a risk of contagion’.
The Fed loaned about $164 billion to US banks within days so that any customers who wanted to withdraw their money could do so, as well as $142.8 billion to the two entities created by US regulators to succeed SVB and Signature. Bank.
Contrary to the Fed’s fight against inflation, these loans have increased its balance sheet by $ 297 billion, which it has been trying to reduce since June.
The American central bank was all the more under pressure as the fall of these banks was pushed by the hikes in the Fed’s rates, which climbed at a rate not seen since the beginning of the 1980s, during the episode of very high inflation experienced by the United States at the time.
And its European counterpart, the ECB, raised its rates by 0.50 percentage point on Thursday, assuring that it would not compromise between price stability and financial stability.
In the United Kingdom, inflation rebounded in February to 10.4% year on year, driven by a further acceleration in food prices.