The Federal Reserve held interest rates steady on Wednesday as policymakers struggled to determine whether financial conditions may be tight enough already to control inflation, or whether an economy that continues to outperform expectations may need still more restraint. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the situation remained something of a riddle, with U.S. central bank officials willing to raise rates again if progress on inflation stalls, wary that a rise in market-based interest rates may begin to weigh on the economy in a significant way, and trying not to disrupt, any more than necessary, an ongoing dynamic of steady job and wage growth.
In a press conference after the end of a two-day policy meeting, Powell said the better course of action for now, given the uncertainties, was to maintain the Fed's benchmark overnight interest rate in the current 5.25%-5.50% range, and see how job and price data evolve between now and the next policy meeting in December. Roughly 20 months into the Fed's aggressive tightening of monetary policy, Powell said it remained unclear whether overall financial conditions were yet restrictive enough to tame inflation that he still considers to be far above the central bank's 2% target. "We're not confident that we haven't, we're not confident that we have" reached that sufficiently restrictive plateau, Powell told reporters. "Inflation has been coming down, but it's still running well above our 2% target ... A few months of good data are only the beginning of what it will take to build confidence."