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Fed expected to raise rates for first time in a year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is expected to raise its key interest rate for the first time in a year when its policy meeting ends Wednesday.

The move would lift the rate by a quarter point to a range between 0.5 percent and 0.75 percent, likely nudging up the cost of some consumer and business loans. The Fed last increased rates in December a year ago, when it hiked its benchmark rate from a record low set at the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

Attention Wednesday will revolve around what Fed official say about the pace of future rate increases against the backdrop of Donald Trump’s election. How the Fed manages its policies might not be clear even after it issues a statement and Chair Janet Yellen holds a news conference.

 

The latest policy statement and projections are to be released at 2 p.m. EST with a news conference by Fed Chair Janet Yellen following at 2:30 p.m.

Of more significance is the backdrop of the meeting. After years of the Fed fretting about low interest rates and weak inflation, the weeks since Donald Trump’s victory have seen both bond yields and inflation expectations start to rise. The Dow Jones industrial average is up more than 11 percent since the vote.

Details of policymakers’ new economic assessments, the first since the election, will be dissected closely to see if policymakers yet feel the arrival of the Trump administration has shifted the economic outlook or poses a risk of greater inflation. The president-elect has said he wants a major tax cut and infrastructure spending program, even as the economy approaches full employment and wages are rising.

“Inflation risks are more significant than they were three months ago,” when the policymakers issued their last forecasts, sad Northern Trust chief economist Carl Tannenbaum. “Rates could well rise more than anticipated.”

Despite the changed circumstances, it is not certain the Fed will budge on its assessments. The median forecast of policymakers as of September was for two interest rate increases in 2017, an outlook Tannenbaum and many analysts feel may remain the case.

Trump has not yet taken office, and any proposals would have to clear a Republican-controlled Congress that may be stricter about increasing public debt than Trump. In recent public appearances some Fed officials have said they see a chance Trump’s policies may force them to speed the pace of rate increases, yet also said they are hesitant to change their outlook before he shares more details.

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