On Feb 1, ‘almost all’ Fed officials backed smaller rate hike

Virtually all Federal Reserve policymakers agreed on a quarter-point interest rate hike taken on February 1, even though a few had favored a bigger jump, according to minutes released Wednesday.

“Almost all participants agreed that it was appropriate to raise the target rate for the federal funds rate 25 basis points at this meeting,” said the minutes, adding that “a few participants” favored a move of twice that size.

The vote on the policy — which was followed by a press conference with Fed Chair Jerome Powell three weeks ago — was unanimous.

The action had marked a moderation in Fed moves after the central bank enacted a half-point rate hike in December following a series three-quarter rate hikes.

“Many of these participants observed that a further slowing in the pace of increases would better allow them to assess the economy’s progress towards the Committee’s goals,” the minutes said.

The Fed has undertaken a series since March 2022 in response to a surge in inflation.

Although inflation has cooled somewhat from its peak levels, data released since the Fed’s last decision showed greater than expected pricing pressures in January, stoking fears that the US central bank’s rate-hiking cycle could be prolonged.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 5.0 percent in December from the year-ago levels, down from the prior hike of a 5.5 percent increase in November 2022 compared with the 2021 period.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release fresh data for the figure on Friday.

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