US Fed officials discuss possibility of faster future rate hikes

Euro Edges Higher, Markets Eye US Inflation, Fed Minutes

The markets are expecting 2 more this year. "I think the debate rages on whether that means three this year of four this year", said Gennadiy Goldberg, an interest rates strategist at TD Securities in NY.

As the economy has strengthened, the Fed has upped the pace of hikes.

The Fed maintained its forecast for two more rate hikes this year, after speculation about whether budding inflation would push it towards raising its outlook to three increases. There was a debate about the benefits of letting inflation modestly overshoot the 2% inflation target but also about the possible risks of an overheated economy.

Indeed, the government reported Wednesday that consumer prices rose 2.4 percent in March compared to a year ago, the fastest 12-month advance in a year and one of several signs that inflation has begun to rise on a sustained basis.

The minutes of the Fed's March 20-21 meeting, which were released Wednesday, showed that a number of participants believed that a stronger outlook for economic activity plus rising inflation implied that the path for the Fed's key interest rate in coming years could be "slightly steeper" than expected.

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It was also the first meeting led by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, who took the helm of the central bank in February.

One potential headache for Fed officials remains threats of tit-for-tat tariffs worth tens of billions of dollars between the Trump administration and China, which if implemented could damage USA growth and raise consumer prices.

In the minutes, Fed policymakers showed concern about this as well as uncertainty about the implication of Trump's stimulus on fiscal sustainability and real interest rates.

The big issue that's dominated markets news since then has been U.S. trade frictions with China, with both countries announcing tariffs on key products they buy from each other.

At the March meeting, the Fed raised its benchmark federal-funds rate by a quarter percentage point to between 1.5% and 1.75%.

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