While many banks think the Federal Reserve will hold off from a truly supersize rate rise on Wednesday, fearful of what such an unexpected action could do to markets and the broader economy, some believe the central bank may need to surprise with an aggressive move in the wake of bad inflation news.
Investment banks Jefferies, Barclays, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan told clients in research notes over recent days they now believe the Fed will boost the federal-funds target rate range, now between 0.75% and 1%, by three quarters of a percentage point at the Federal Open Market Committee meeting on Wednesday. A move of that size would equal the Fed’s two rate rises this year, in March and May.
Friday’s report on the consumer-price index rising 8.6 percent in May from a year earlier and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment survey showing higher long-term inflation expectations are “game changers” for the Fed, and signal the central bank needs to pick up the pace of its efforts to bring inflation down, Jefferies economists Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska wrote in a note Friday.
“As forecasters, we often remind ourselves that the job is to predict what the Fed will do, rather than what they should do,” they wrote. “This time, we believe the data create such a strong case for a larger rate increase, that the Fed not only should, but will deliver a 75 basis point hike.”
“The only argument against a 75 basis point hike is that the Fed hates surprising the market and deviating from guidance,” the Jefferies economists added.
As hawkish as Fed officials have been over recent weeks in affirming again and again the need for aggressive action and historically large rate rises, none have made the case for interest rate increases above a half percentage point.
That includes St. Louis Fed leader James Bullard, one of the central bank’s most hawkish policy makers, who was ahead of the curve in calling for an aggressive shift in monetary policy to tackle high inflation. He was even willing to flirt with calling for a 75 basis point increase in the spring, but for now he has said the Fed’s path of likely 50 basis point increases is a “good plan.”