U.S. bond investors were gauging how to navigate a prolonged period of higher interest rates that some expect to weigh on U.S. growth, after the Federal Reserve on Wednesday left open the possibility of more rate increases and excluded easing financial conditions anytime soon.
With its latest 25 basis point interest rate increase now in the books, the Fed has raised the benchmark overnight interest rate by 525 basis points since March 2022 to a level last seen before the 2007 housing market crash in a fight to bring down inflation.
Cooling consumer prices and a resilient economy have sparked rallies in stocks this year and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday said a recession is unlikely – a sharp reversal from the mood earlier this year, when both the Fed and investors believed a downturn was all but unavoidable.
Still, some fixed income investors have remained on edge over how long the Fed can keep interest rates at restrictive levels without sparking an economic downturn. Timing such a shift is important in part because a weaker economy would, in theory, cause the Fed to cut rates, weigh on the high yields many have enjoyed this year and spark a rally in bond prices.
“Investors remain divided on whether this marks the last increase in the current tightening campaign,” said Gurpreet Gill, global fixed income macro strategist at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “Given the uncertainty around when the Fed’s hiking cycle will conclude, we have limited exposure to US rates.”