Fed set to leave rates alone amid signs of rising inflation

Published 7:29 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve achieved an inflation milestone this week, but that isn’t likely to alter expectations for what the Fed will announce when its latest policy meeting ends Wednesday.

After six years of mostly missing its annual 2 percent target for inflation, the Fed learned Monday that its preferred gauge of consumer inflation had reached a year-over-year pace of 2 percent. And in the coming months, inflation is widely expected to stay around that level.

The debate the Fed is now likely to have is whether it should accept a period in which inflation rises above 2 percent without accelerating its pace of rate increases. But for now, a rate increase is considered unlikely. In a statement it will issue Wednesday afternoon, the Fed is expected to leave its benchmark rate unchanged at a still-low level of 1.5 percent to 1.75 percent.

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Solid economic growth, low unemployment and evidence of inflation pressures, though, are expected to keep the central bank on a path of gradual rate hikes the rest of the year. Most Fed watchers foresee either two or three additional increases in the Fed’s key rate by year’s end, coming after an earlier hike in January.

The central bank is meeting as its board is undergoing a makeover, with a raft of new appointees by President Donald Trump who appear generally supportive of the Fed’s cautious approach to rates since the Great Recession ended.