United States Holds Interest Rates at 5.5% But Signals One More Rate Hike This Year

There was some volatility in the currency markets after the Fed decision. Still, it did not last long, and the US dollar showed little change throughout Wednesday. 

In its 20th September meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) approved the pause, which kept the benchmark interest rate at 5.5%. The Fed signalled that it expected borrowing costs to remain higher for longer following one final rate hike this year.

The probability of a pause before the meeting was close to 100%, which meant that a rate hike at the meeting would have been nothing short of a massive shock.

In a statement following the announcement, FOMC members kept the door open to additional rate increases. They said, "we intend to hold policy at a restrictive level until we’re confident that inflation is moving down sustainably toward our objective.”

This reiterated the Fed's commitment to returning inflation to the 2% target. The August inflation report, released last week, indicated that inflation rose for a second straight month and hit 3.7%, up from 3.2% in July. The Fed has done an excellent job reducing inflation, which peaked at 9.1% in June 2022. However, bringing inflation back down to 2% has proven difficult, even with the Fed's steep tightening cycle.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell sounded cautiously optimistic at the meeting, saying the Fed would “proceed carefully” but that it was close to “where we need to get”.

In June, the Fed’s dot plot (quarterly projection of the interest rate path) indicated one more quarter-point increase before the end of the year, as well as rate cuts of 100 basis points (1%) in 2024. The dot plot in Wednesday’s meeting maintained the forecast for the rate increase but trimmed expectations of rate cuts to 50 basis points in 2024 as part of its 'higher for longer' message at Wednesday's meeting.

So what does the Fed decision mean? The pause in rate hikes can be viewed as a ‘hawkish pause’, with the Fed stressing that the rate tightening cycle was not over, as inflation remains too high for the Fed's liking.

US Dollar Remains Steady, Stock Markets Fall Sharply 

There was some volatility in the currency markets after the Fed decision. Still, it did not last long, and the US dollar showed little change throughout Wednesday. The one exception is the GBP/USD currency pair, which is down 80 basis points since the Wednesday opening and is currently trading at $1.2313 at the time of writing. This downswing, however, can be primarily attributed to the UK inflation report and market apprehension ahead of today's Bank of England rate decision.

In the US, the major stock indices fell sharply on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 Index dropped 41.75 points (0.94%) to close at 4,402.20, while the Nasdaq 100 Index declined 221.31 points (1.46%) to close at 14,969.

Kenny Fisher
Kenny started his career in forex working in the sales and marketing department at a major forex broker and has worked as a market analyst for 12 years. With a legal editing background, Kenny has combined his writing skills and finance expertise to produce top-quality articles. Kenny covers a wide range of topics, including global stock markets, commodities and currencies, with focus on fundamental and macro-economic analysis. Kenny’s articles have been carried by Oanda, Investing.com, Seeking Alpha and FXStreet. Kenny holds a Bachelor of Law from Ogoode Hall Law School in Toronto, Canada.