The US Federal Reserve (Fed) has hiked interest rates by 75-basis points, to the interval 2.25 to 2.5%, in line with what most analysts expected.
“Recent indicators of spending and production have softened. Nonetheless, job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher food and energy prices, and broader price pressures,” the Fed wrote in its announcement of the rate hike.
Prices of both bitcoin (BTC) and ethereum (ETH) immediately rose following the announcement. One hour into the announcement, BTC had gained 4.5% to USD 22,590, while ETH was up 5.5% to USD 1,580. Stocks also rose, with the broad S&P 500 index up 1% since the announcement and up 2.2% for the day to trade just above the key 4,000 level.
In his press conference, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said that “another unusually large increase could be appropriate at the next meeting” in September. However, he added that as rates become more restrictive, it will likely be appropriate to “slow the pace of increases.” Powell also repeatedly made it clear that the Fed’s decisions going forward will be “data-driven,” and said the central bank is “strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective.”
“The market reacted very positively to the increase of the 75 basis point, as the economy saw this as a bold move that could help slow down inflation faster. The crypto economy also moves up, overperforming the stocks, thanks to the higher volatility,” Damian Scavo, CEO at algorithmic trading platform Streetbeat, said in an emailed comment.
Mikkel Mørch, Executive Director at Digital Asset Investment Fund ARK36, added that market participants were actually quite fearful of the 100 basis points and sighed with relief when the raise aligned with the consensus.
“Since the next hike doesn’t come until September, there may be some room for upside now – although that will be contingent on the strength of the dollar and the wider macro environment,” he said.
Also, according to Mørch, if the Fed ignores the growing evidence of a recession and continues on its hawkish course, it will be a strong signal to the markets that they can’t count on the Fed to pivot before the midterm elections in November.
“So a 75 or perhaps even 50 basis point rate hike in September will likely trigger a sharp sell-off in risk assets,” he added.
This time, analysts had widely expected the Fed to raise rates by 75-basis points, the same as during the previous Fed meeting in June. The same was also largely expected by market players, with the derivatives exchange CME’s FedWatch Tool ahead of the announcement indicating a 76% probability that the Fed would announce another 75-point hike.
Federal Funds rate ahead of Wednesday’s hike:
Still, some, including a chief economist at investment bank JPMorgan Chase, have floated the idea that the Fed could hike rates by a full percentage point, the largest rate increase in modern Fed history. The argument given for that is that it would be helpful in taming inflation, which last month reached 9.1% annually in the US.
And although inflation is sky-high, economic growth in the US is cooling, putting the Fed in a difficult situation as it raises interest rates. According to a survey of economists by the Wall Street Journal, the chance of a recession in the US in the next 12 months is now 49%.
The latest survey results mean economists have turned markedly more bearish on the economy in recent months. In June, 44% of the surveyed economists said a recession is likely in the next 12 months, while only 18% said the same in January.
Judging from a commonly accepted definition of a recession (two quarters of negative GDP growth in a row), the US could already be in one, although we will have to wait until quarterly GDP numbers are released on Thursday to know for sure.
Commenting before today’s announcement, Marcus Sotiriou, an analyst at crypto broker GlobalBlock, attributed the selling seen in the crypto market on Monday and Tuesday this week to fear of what the Fed might do.
“Selling in anticipation of this event has been typical throughout this bear market, as many market participants choose not to buy when there is uncertainty on what course of action the Federal Reserve plans to take,” Sotiriou said in an emailed commentary.
He added that we “could see” a rally in the crypto market if the Fed hikes rates in line with expectations, as bitcoin in particular has tended to reverse course after rate announcements this year whenever the announcement was as expected.
Also commenting ahead of today’s hike, the Singapore-based crypto trading firm QCP Capital said in an update that a 100-basis point hike has now been “priced out by the market.”
“Every [Fed] meeting this year has seen a positive immediate market reaction to the rate decision. We expect the same for this one,” the firm wrote. It added that there’s “a good chance” Fed Chair Jerome Powell could indicate that the central bank will revert to a 50-point hike at its next meeting if growth slows and inflation eases.
“Markets will react positively to this,” they said, while pointing to the lows for BTC and ETH during this bear market as “a base” that will now act as support.
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