Federal Reserve raises interest rates, signals fewer hikes ahead

US Central bank raises the benchmark interest rate for a fourth time this year and lowers projections for future hikes.

    The US central bank, the Federal Reserve, raised its benchmark interest rate a quarter percentage point on Wednesday and trimmed the number of projected rate hikes for 2019.

    In its post-meeting statement, the fed pointed to a tight jobs market and economic activity that’s been “rising at a strong rate” as the reasons for the rate increase.

    Fed officials are also now forecasting two rate hikes for the next year, instead of three.

    Wednesday’s move bumps the benchmark federal funds rate to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.50 percent. It is the fourth rate hike this year and the ninth since late 2015.

    This week’s meeting was arguably the most highly anticipated Fed gathering of the year, given the backdrop of market turmoil spawned by trade wars, plunging oil prices and worries over slowing global economic growth.

    The US central bank has also been in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump who has accused the Fed of undermining his efforts to grow the economy.

    The Federal Reserve has a dual mandate to maximise employment and maintain price stability in the United States.

    The short-term federal funds rate influences both US and global financial markets which had widely priced in Wednesday’s hike. An increase in the benchmark rate raises the cost of borrowing in the United States, which tames inflation and cools the economy. It also reverberates around the globe by raising the value of the dollar against emerging market currencies, many of which have been under pressure this year.

    Late last month, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he considered the benchmark interest rate to be near the so-called “neutral level”, which neither accelerates nor puts the brakes on economic growth.

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