Fed Raises U.S. Interest Rates Again, Now At 22-Year High

Stocks closed mixed as the U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates again today – hike no. 11 since March of 2022, as the central bank tries to stamp down record inflation.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said at a press conference today after the 25 basis-point (0.25%) increase, that one positive CPI reading, in June, isn’t enough to promise there won’t be more rate hikes. He wouldn’t be pinned down on if or when. The Fed’s key policy rate, the fed funds rate, now stands at 5.25%-5.50%, the highest point in 22 years.

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“Possibly, we would raise [rates] again if the data warranted at the September meeting. And I would also say, we could choose to hold [rates] steady,” said Powell. It all, still depends on the data. The Fed will not take rate hikes off the table until subsequent CPI (Consumer Price Index) reports – show inflation is “durably down.”

The hike was pretty much expected although many market players hoped for a pause, because inflation is trending lower although it’ still far from the Fed’s target 2%. Inflation doesn’t respond immediately to interest rate hikes but the impact is over time, Powell acknowleged.

Inflation has hit consumers and companies hard, but so have high interest rates, which raise the cost of borrowing, and on the corporate side have pretty much frozen significant M&A across sectors.

The rapidly rising rates have prompted fears of the country tipping into recession, jitters which have spilled into many of pockets of the economy, including advertising.

One semi-bright note, Powell said the Fed’s internal forecasts, which previously predicted a recession later this year, are now anticipating a less dramatic economic slowdown, or so-called soft landing. That’s largely because the job market has continued with unemployment low strong despite rising rates.

The Dow is clinging to positive territory after the Fed news but the Nasdaq and S&P 500 have both turned lower heading into market close.

Stocks, including media shares, were mixed. Warner Bros. Discovery closed up 1.8%, Paramount gained 2.5% and Lionsgate nearly 5%. Disney nose up 0.27%. Comcast dipped 0.9%, Netflix 1.18%.

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