Fed Lines Up Another Big Hike While Mulling Eventual Downshift

Federal Reserve officials are preparing to roll out another super-sized interest-rate increase in early November, when they will also likely debate tactics for completing the most aggressive tightening cycle in four decades.

Officials have been rapidly raising rates after being slow to tackle inflation that proved more persistent than expected. But with rates now approaching levels that could weigh on economic growth, policymakers are beginning to lay the groundwork for shifting to smaller moves that get them to the finish line without going too far, while leaving the door open to going further if inflation doesn’t abate.

“Front loading was a good thing,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans told a community banking symposium hosted jointly by his bank Friday, reminding his audience that rates were down near zero in March. “But overshooting is costly too, and there is great uncertainty about how restrictive policy must actually become. So this is going to put a premium on the strategy of getting to a place and a level where policy can plan to rest and evaluate.”

Officials, who now enter their blackout period ahead of the Nov. 1-2 policy meeting, want to raise rates to a level that restricts growth and hold them there for some time while inflation comes down. After they hiked rates by 75 basis points at each of the last three Fed meetings, the central bank’s benchmark rate is now at a target range of 3% to 3.25%.