Goldman Sachs expects pause in Fed’s interest rate hikes
Analysts at Goldman Sachs expect the Federal Reserve to pause its interest rate hikes this week, citing concerns about uncertainty in the global financial system spurred by a string of destabilizing bank failures.
The Fed has been on a path of monetary tightening as it continues its fight against inflation, and it was expected to raise rates by another 0.25 percentage points at its upcoming policy meeting March 21-22. But bank failures, like the fall of Silicon Valley Bank, have put immediate tightening on a possible halt.
Federal regulators have stepped in to try to stop a widespread banking crisis by backstopping all uninsured deposits at Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, going far beyond the $250,000 insurance guarantee for each depositor offered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The move was meant to instill confidence in regional and midsized banks in investors and consumers, but fears of a more prolonged disaster persisted.
“We expect the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) to pause at its March meeting this week because of stress in the banking system,” Goldman economists, led by Jan Hatzius, said in a analysis.
“While policymakers have responded aggressively to shore up the financial system, markets appear to be less than fully convinced that efforts to support small and midsize banks will prove sufficient.”
Many pointed to raising interest rates as one of the reasons that Silicon Valley Bank collapsed.
The firm gobbled up low interest government securities during the nearly zero-interest period surrounding the pandemic. As interest rates were hiked to fight inflation, the value of the low-interest bonds owned by the bank plummeted, wreaking havoc on its balance sheets. The bank announced that it would need to raise billions of dollars in funds to secure its books, leading depositors to pull their money from the bank in a run that ultimately sank it.
But Fed Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers earlier this month that there are signs the slowdown in the economy that the central bank has been trying to achieve is reversing, possibly raising the need for a more aggressive spike in interest rates.
Goldman economists argued that not raising rates at the end of this month would only be a “pause” in the fight against inflation, saying the Fed will still be able to reach its long-term goals related to inflation if it does not increase interest rates immediately.
“This would mean taking a pause in the inflation fight, but that should not be such a problem. Bringing inflation back to 2% is a medium-term goal, which the FOMC expects to solve only gradually over the next two years,” the economists said. “The FOMC can get back on track quickly if appropriate, and the banking stress could have disinflationary effects.”
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