The Federal Reserve will announce its latest monetary policy decision at 2:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, with investors expecting the central bank to raise interest rates by 0.25% for the second-straight meeting. A quarter-point hike would bring the policy rate to a new range of 4.75%-5%, the highest since October 2007.
This announcement will come at the conclusion of one of the central bank’s most uncertain meetings in years as the Fed looks to balance inflation that remains well above its target and a banking crisis that has rocked the financial sector.
Data from the CME Group on Wednesday showed investors placing nearly 90% odds on the Fed lifting rates by 25 basis points on Wednesday.
All eyes will be on Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference, set to begin at 2:30 p.m. ET, to understand how recent bank failures are shaping the central bank’s policy approach as the Fed chair works to square the challenge of financial system stress with inflation that remains stubbornly high.
Since the beginning of March, three banks in the U.S. have failed, with two — Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank — being placed into receivership by regulators. In Europe, the Swiss government also forced an emergency merger between UBS and Credit Suisse, with UBS subsuming its smaller rival to stabilize the European banking system.
In response to these developments, the Fed has set up an emergency lending facility to shore up deposits in the U.S. banking system while establishing swap lines with international central banks to alleviate global stresses that have arisen in recent weeks.
On the inflation side, February’s consumer price index showed so-called “core” inflation, which excludes the cost of food and energy, rose 0.5% over the prior month and 5.5% over last year. On a headline basis, which includes food and energy, inflation rose 6% over last year in February, three times the Fed’s 2% target.