Federal Reserve split on interest rate hikes

September 22 | Market news

Key takeaways

  • The U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) reaffirmed supportive monetary policy, maintaining low interest rates but stating that a gradual reduction in its asset purchase program, or tapering, “may soon be warranted.”
  • We anticipate the Fed may announce a tapering timeline at its next regularly scheduled meeting on November 3, with Chairman Jerome Powell noting purchases may conclude around mid-2022. Policymakers’ expectations for the first interest rate hike are split between 2022 and 2023.
  • Today’s announcement is consistent with our positive outlook on the economy and diversified portfolios. Policymakers retain significant optionality to slow down or speed up policy normalization as economic data evolves.

The Federal Reserve (Fed) maintained accommodative monetary policies of low interest rates and asset purchases following the conclusion of its regularly scheduled two-day meeting, but laid the groundwork for the gradual removal of monetary policy stimulus. The Fed indicated reducing monthly asset purchases “may soon be warranted” if economic progress continues, with asset purchases concluding “around mid-2022.”

Policymakers also accelerated their expectations around the timing and pace of rate hikes, though expectations among voting members reflect a wide range of potential outcomes. Half of the Fed’s members anticipate an initial rate hike in 2022, with the median expectation in 2023, somewhat sooner than indications from pre-meeting interest rate markets. Our positive outlook for diversified portfolios remains intact based on economic reopening progress and supportive corporate fundamentals. Coronavirus impacts on the pace of economic and earnings growth, an inflationary trend that may prove to be sustained versus temporary, and tax and spending changes remain risks to our view.

Small- and mid-sized domestic equities, along with emerging markets and economically sensitive sectors like Energy and Financial Services stocks led riskier asset prices higher. The S&P 500 Index representing larger U.S. companies rose as well, though is still 3 percent below all-time highs hit earlier this month. Treasury yields increased slightly for maturities of less than 10 years in anticipation of a slightly faster pace of rate hikes in coming years. Longer-term bond yields fell slightly. The 10-year Treasury bond currently yields 1.32 percent, up from 0.92 percent at the beginning of the year but down from the 2021 high near 1.76 percent in March.

Slowing bond purchases around year-end would allow the Fed to retain the option to increase its target federal funds rate in mid- to late- 2022 if economic conditions warrant, though 2023 remains a reasonable possibility as well. Fed committee member rate hike expectations vary widely, with members split on whether a rate hike will be appropriate in 2022. Members’ year-end 2023 policy rate expectations range from 0.25 percent to 1.75 percent, highlighting the uncertain nature of the economic recovery. The pace of policy normalization will hinge on the evolution of growth, inflation and employment. The committee’s economic projections show downgraded median growth expectations for 2021 but a modest upgrade for 2022, in contrast to an increase in 2021 and 2022 inflation expectations.

Our investment outlook remains “glass half-full” regarding the forward prospects for diversified portfolios. Rising earnings, continued reopening progress and accommodative central banks support our near-term outlook. We continue to encourage investors to retain a multi-year, multi-cycle perspective, being mindful of recent events but focusing on two key investment horizons: First, the current reopening activity around the globe and countries’ variable speeds and glidepaths as they emerge and second, the steady state that follows and how sustainable growth may be throughout that second horizon.

As always, we value your trust and are here to help in any way we can. Please do not hesitate to let us know if we can help address your unique financial situation or be of assistance.


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This information represents the opinion of U.S. Bank Wealth Management. The views are subject to change at any time based on market or other conditions and are current as of the date indicated on the materials. This is not intended to be a forecast of future events or guarantee of future results. It is not intended to provide specific advice or to be construed as an offering of securities or recommendation to invest. Not for use as a primary basis of investment decisions. Not to be construed to meet the needs of any particular investor. Not a representation or solicitation or an offer to sell/buy any security. Investors should consult with their investment professional for advice concerning their particular situation. The factual information provided has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness. U.S. Bank is not affiliated or associated with any organizations mentioned.

Based on our strategic approach to creating diversified portfolios, guidelines are in place concerning the construction of portfolios and how investments should be allocated to specific asset classes based on client goals, objectives and tolerance for risk. Not all recommended asset classes will be suitable for every portfolio. Diversification and asset allocation do not guarantee returns or protect against losses.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. All performance data, while obtained from sources deemed to be reliable, are not guaranteed for accuracy. Indexes shown are unmanaged and are not available for direct investment. The S&P 500 Index consists of 500 widely traded stocks that are considered to represent the performance of the U.S. stock market in general.

Equity securities are subject to stock market fluctuations that occur in response to economic and business developments. International investing involves special risks, including foreign taxation, currency risks, risks associated with possible differences in financial standards and other risks associated with future political and economic developments. Investing in emerging markets may involve greater risks than investing in more developed countries. In addition, concentration of investments in a single region may result in greater volatility. Investing in fixed income securities are subject to various risks, including changes in interest rates, credit quality, market valuations, liquidity, prepayments, early redemption, corporate events, tax ramifications and other factors. Investment in debt securities typically decrease in value when interest rates rise. This risk is usually greater for longer-term debt securities. Investments in lower-rated and non-rated securities present a greater risk of loss to principal and interest than higher-rated securities. Investments in high yield bonds offer the potential for high current income and attractive total return, but involve certain risks. Changes in economic conditions or other circumstances may adversely affect a bond issuer's ability to make principal and interest payments. The municipal bond market is volatile and can be significantly affected by adverse tax, legislative or political changes and the financial condition of the issues of municipal securities. Interest rate increases can cause the price of a bond to decrease. Income on municipal bonds is free from federal taxes, but may be subject to the federal alternative minimum tax (AMT), state and local taxes. There are special risks associated with investments in real assets such as commodities and real estate securities. For commodities, risks may include market price fluctuations, regulatory changes, interest rate changes, credit risk, economic changes and the impact of adverse political or financial factors. Investments in real estate securities can be subject to fluctuations in the value of the underlying properties, the effect of economic conditions on real estate values, changes in interest rates and risks related to renting properties (such as rental defaults).

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