All eyes on Wall Street are focused on Wednesday’s announcement from the Federal Reserve about the latest interest rate increase.
The Fed previously indicated that another half-point rate hike was in the cards for June. Then came last week’s report showing that consumer prices soared by 8.6% in May from a year before.
Now many economists and market players anticipate more aggressive action on the central bank’s part — a three-quarter-point rate increase.
If so, this would be the first time since 1994 that the Fed acted so boldly.
“The most likely triggers for a shift to a more aggressive pace of tightening are the upside surprise in the May CPI report and the further rise last Friday in the Michigan consumer survey’s measures of long-term inflation expectations,” Goldman Sachs chief economist Jan Hatzius told clients.
Goldman’s economists now expect three-quarter-point rate hikes this month and next, followed by a half-point increase in September.
While this may help achieve the Fed’s goal of cooling the economy and easing inflation, higher rates also boost the risk of a recession and higher unemployment.
It’s a tough situation all around.
Another key data point was revealed Tuesday when the Labor Department announced that wholesale prices rose nearly 11% in May from a year before.
Higher wholesale prices almost inevitably mean retail price will similarly climb — a signal that consumers have yet another gut punch coming their way.
Many economists now believe a recession is inevitable, perhaps in the first half of next year.
If that’s the case, it means things will grow worse economically before they get better. Consider yourself warned.