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If you’re feeling the financial pressure from today’s high interest rates on all kinds of loans, relief may be on the way.

Key Takeaways

  • The Federal Reserve may have raised its benchmark interest rate to as high as it will get, a central bank official said. 
  • Price growth has slowed significantly since the Fed began its campaign of anti-inflation rate hikes in March 2022. 
  • Setbacks in the inflation fight could make the Fed resume hiking again.
  • Even with no more hikes, the Fed will likely keep interest rates high for months to come, hurting borrowers and helping savers. 

The Federal Reserve may have raised rates for the last time in its nearly year-and-a-half old fight against inflation, Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and a member of the central bank’s policy committee, said in a speech in Philadelphia Tuesday, according to prepared remarks.

“Absent any alarming new data between now and mid-September, I believe we may be at the point where we can be patient and hold rates steady and let the monetary policy actions we have taken do their work,” Harker said. 

If the Fed holds its benchmark fed funds rate steady in September and at subsequent meetings, it would mark a significant shift in monetary policy. The central bank has raised its key interest rate 11 times since March 2022, bringing it to a range of 5.25 to 5.5% from near-zero.

The rate hikes have put upward pressure on interest rates including credit cards, mortgages, and car loans. By raising borrowing costs, the Fed hopes to discourage spending by businesses and individuals and give supply and demand a chance to rebalance. 

Harker said he’s been encouraged by the progress against inflation. Price increases for consumer goods and services have cooled to a 3% pace from the previous year as of June after spiking after the economy reopened from the pandemic, peaking at more than 9% in June 2022 according to the Consumer Price Index.

Remarkably, the inflation slowdown has taken place without the surge in unemployment that has gone along with past episodes of anti-inflation rate hikes going back to the 1970s. The resilient labor market has raised hopes that the economy can achieve a “soft landing,” instead of the economic crash that many economists believed could happen as a result of the Fed’s rate hikes. 

“I do see us on the flight path to the soft landing we all hope for and that has proved quite elusive in the past,” Harker said.

Other recent Fed speakers emphasized the possibility of future rate hikes if inflation doesn’t cooperate with the soft landing goal.

However, traders mostly see things Harker’s way, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool, which forecasts rate hikes based on fed futures trading data. There was only a 14% chance of a rate hike in September and a 30% chance of one in November. 

Even if it stops raising rates, the rate is currently at its highest since 2001, a level that Fed officials have said is “restrictive” of economic activity, and could stay there well into next year. 

That means high interest rates could be here for a while, both for borrowers and savers, who have benefitted from the high returns on things like certificates of deposit and high-yield savings accounts. 

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