U.S. fed funds futures raise rate hike chances in early 2023 after Fed statement

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building on Constitution Avenue is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Futures on the federal funds rate, which track short-term interest rate expectations, on Wednesday raised bets that the U.S. Federal Reserve will tighten monetary policy in early 2023 after Fed projections showed at least two rate increases that year.

The fed funds market showed a roughly 90% chance of a rate hike by January 2023. Prior to the Fed statement, the market fully priced in a rate increase by April 2023.

New projections saw 11 Fed officials, a majority, pencil in at least two quarter-point interest rate increases for 2023, even as officials in their statement pledged to keep policy supportive for now to encourage an ongoing jobs recovery.

“That’s enough of a hawkish surprise for the bond market and it’s getting all of the attention,” said Frances Donald, global chief economist, Manulife Investment Management, in Toronto, reacting to the Fed’s rate projections, or the so-called “dot plot.”

“There has not been a material change of tone. This statement has only a few adjustments. The market is reacting to a few strands of information in the dot plot,” said Donald.

In his press conference after the meeting, Fed chairman Jerome Powell said Fed projections do not represent a committee decision or plan.

For some context, on the “dot plot,” DRW Trading market strategist Lou Brien said Powell is not a fan of the dots as a rate forecast, but has said that “they are useful in signaling Fed sentiment.”

Brien noted, for instance, that the December 2018 dot plot showed a U.S. rate forecast to near 3% by end-2019 during the Fed’s hiking cycle. But rates never ticked higher and stood at 1.75% at the end of 2019.

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