Fed Holds Steady: Anticipating Rate Cuts and a Policy Pivot in 2024 

The Federal Reserve, in its final policy decision of 2023, has signaled a potential shift in monetary policy by forecasting three interest rate cuts in 2024. This announcement comes after the central bank maintained interest rates at their highest level in over two decades for a third consecutive meeting. 

As inflation begins to ease and the economy shows continued resilience, Fed officials unanimously voted to keep the benchmark overnight borrowing rate steady within the target range of 5.25%-5.5%. This pause follows an aggressive period that saw 11 rate hikes starting from March 2022, which was aimed at combating rapid inflation. 

Markets had largely anticipated the hold on interest rates but were uncertain about the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) future plans regarding easing monetary policy. However, post-meeting indicators such as the “dot plot” revealed expectations for further reductions through 2026, potentially lowering the federal funds rate to between 2%-2.25%, aligning with long-term forecasts. 

Despite these predictions, market reactions suggested a more aggressive stance than what FOMC members indicated. Traders are now pricing in a total reduction of 1.5 percentage points for next year—a pace double that of the Fed’s current projection. 

An alteration in wording within the committee’s statement hinted that interest rate hikes may be concluding. The phrase “any more policy tightening” was introduced, signifying a consideration of various factors before implementing additional hikes—a nuance not previously noted. 

Additionally, there has been no signal from Fed officials to reduce their balance sheet unwinding process that permits up to $95 billion monthly from maturing bonds to roll off without reinvestment—a continuation of policy tightening efforts. 

Read more in this related article on the CRE Insights blog: UBS Predicts Multiple Interest Rate Cuts by the Federal Reserve in 2024 Amid Economic Downturn 

Inflationary pressures have receded from their peak reached mid-2022; however, prices remain high. Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged this improvement during his news conference and expressed optimism over declining inflation without significant job losses. 

The recent economic data reflects this trend with consumer and wholesale prices showing little change recently. Estimates suggest that by some measures, inflation is nearing the Fed’s target of 2%. 

Moreover, economic growth has slowed down compared to previous quarters’ robust performance. Nevertheless, GDP is projected to expand by approximately 2.5% for the entire year according to Powell’s remarks during his press briefing. 

Looking ahead into 2023 and beyond, GDP growth is expected at an annualized pace of 2.6%, slightly higher than earlier predictions made in September. Unemployment projections remain relatively stable with minimal fluctuations anticipated over subsequent years. 

Fed officials have emphasized their readiness to increase rates again if necessary should inflation rise unexpectedly; however, they also indicate patience while observing how previous tightening measures affect economic conditions. 

This fiscal strategy occurs against a backdrop where persistent high prices have politically impacted President Joe Biden’s administration; concerns over how economic issues are being handled have weighed on his approval ratings. With presidential elections approaching in 2024, there had been speculation regarding whether the Fed might avoid significant policy actions during an election year—yet this latest move suggests a willingness to adapt strategies as needed despite political considerations. 


December 15, 2023