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Fed Plans to Keep Interest Rates Steady

Federal Reserve officials are likely to keep interest rates steady again at their next meeting, continuing a trend that's been in place for six straight meetings. This decision comes in the wake of persistently high inflation, with rates currently set between 5.25% to 5.5%—the highest in two decades. At their upcoming policy meeting on Wednesday, officials aren't just expected to hold the line on rates, but also possibly update on their strategy for managing the Fed's massive $7.4 trillion balance sheet.

Despite earlier discussions about potential rate cuts in 2024, the Fed's Chair Jerome Powell may signal a pause on these cuts until inflation shows signs of consistently moving towards their 2% target. In a recent speech, Powell hinted that high rates could be the new normal for a while, suggesting that the Fed is prepared to keep policies tight as long as necessary to control inflation.

Economists are also anticipating some changes in the Fed's communication. They might adjust their initial statement to reflect the recent stall in progress on inflation, as recent data showed price increases remaining stubbornly high. Additionally, the Fed might announce plans to slow down the pace at which it has been reducing its balance sheet, a process known as quantitative tightening, signaling a cautious approach towards unwinding economic support measures.

During Powell's press conference, which follows the meeting, he is expected to clarify that immediate rate cuts are unlikely, and any future cuts will heavily depend on economic improvements. This careful language will be crucial for understanding the Fed's roadmap for the remainder of the year.

Moreover, amidst this economic discussion, Powell might also address political pressures, particularly recent reports about efforts from former President Donald Trump's allies to challenge the Fed's independence should he return to office. Powell is expected to stress the importance of the Fed's autonomy in making policy decisions free from political influence.



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