Federal Reserve Bank Expected to Speed up End of Bond Buying and Signal Interest Rate Hikes are Coming

In the coming week, the Federal Reserve could decide to speed up the end of its bond-buying program and signal that it expects to start hiking interest rates in 2022.

In testimony before a Senate panel on Nov. 30, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tipped the warning that the central bank would discuss speeding the taper of its $120 billion monthly bond purchases at the December meetings. His comments followed a parade of Fed speakers, who all suggested the central bank could end the program sooner than the current timeline of June 2022.

In November, the Fed announced it would wind down its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases at a pace of $15 billion a month.  The bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing, was put in place in early 2020 to help the economy and financial markets combat the impact of the pandemic. The Fed also had quickly slashed its fed funds target rate to zero.

In its last forecast, the Fed’s so-called dot-plot chart of inflation forecasts shows that half the Fed officials expected one or two rate hikes next year, but there was no consensus for a hike. The first hikes were in 2023. That is likely to change in the updated forecast, with possibly two hikes penciled in for next year.

Powell also acknowledged during his recent testimony that inflation could be more of a problem than the central bank thought, and that it was time to retire the description of inflation as “transitory,” or temporary. Indeed, the consumer price index for November surged to its fastest rate in nearly 40 years.