The Federal Reserve has been very clear about its intentions to move more aggressively in fighting inflation. It currently defines “more aggressively” as a likely series of 50 basis point rate hikes, beginning with the May Federal Open Market Committee meeting. This will mark the first time in 22 years that the Fed has doubled the normal 25 basis point increase.
In remarks at a panel discussion at the IMF on April 21st, Chairman Powell reiterated that it is appropriate “to be moving a little more quickly” on rate hikes. He also indicated that he believes that financial markets are “acting appropriately generally,” meaning that they are adjusting to the expectations of higher rates.
Markets are forward-looking, so prices today reflect what markets think will happen in the future. A good example of this is mortgage rates: The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 5.29% as the last week of April opened. For contrast, in early March, it was 3.76%.
Markets are having trouble interpreting this information. The problem is that so far, we’ve heard the Fed’s intentions, but without corresponding data showing whether or not rate hikes are working, markets can’t assess the likely path. And that leads to volatility.