The Fed’s FOMC Raises Fed Funds Rate by 25 Basis Points; Bitcoin Price Flat on the News

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) continued its year-plus string of rate hikes on Wednesday, lifting the fed funds rate by 25 basis points to a targeted range of 5%-5.25%.

The price of bitcoin (BTC) held steady in the immediate aftermath of the news, trading at about $28,600.

The Fed’s move was widely expected, but investors and traders were awaiting the accompanying policy statement and Chair Jerome Powell’s post-meeting press conference (beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET) for clues about whether the central bank was mulling a pause after an historic run of rate hikes that’s taken the fed funds rate from 0% in early 2022 to today’s 5%-5.25%.

The policy statement was notable for leaving out prior language that suggested continuing rate hikes were a certainty. The statement did take note of “tighter credit conditions” as weighing on the economy going forward, and said the FOMC will “take into account the cumulative tightening of monetary policy, the lags with which monetary policy affects economic activity and inflation, and economic and financial developments.”

While inflation has fallen from nearly a double-digit pace one year ago to the current level of about 5%, it remains well above the Fed’s 2% target, suggesting further tightening of monetary policy is necessary.

The Fed, however, is fighting a two-front war, with its rate hikes possibly having helped expose balance sheet issues at a number of U.S. banks. This past weekend came the latest in a series of lender failures, with the nation’s 12th-largest bank by assets, First Republic (FRC), requiring a joint rescue by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and JPMorgan (JPM).

A decision to pause rate hikes was not made today, said Powell at his press conference following the FOMC meeting. We are prepared to more to contain inflation, he added. Bitcoin has pulled back modestly to $28,390 versus $28,600 just after the FOMC rate decision.

Update (19:02 UTC, May 3, 2023): Added comments from Powell’s press conference.

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