U.S. economists split on rate hike timing

By James Langton | December 7, 2021 | Last updated on December 7, 2021
2 min read
Federal Reserve Building
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U.S. securities industry economists remain divided on the timing of rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve Board, according to the latest edition of a biannual survey of chief economists at U.S. financial firms.

U.S. trade group the Securities and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) released the results of its latest economist survey, which was carried out between Nov. 15 and Dec. 3. The survey indicated that economists are evenly divided about whether the Fed will move on rates in the second, third or fourth quarter next year (29% each) — with a minority, 12%, who don’t see rate action until 2023.

“The factors listed as most important to the Fed’s rate decision were: inflation pressure/expectations, resumption of real economic activity, and Covid impact on labor conditions,” the report said.

Alongside those considerations, the survey found that most economists (87%) also believe that new anti-viral treatments “will somewhat accelerate” the Fed’s return to normal monetary policy.

On the employment front, the survey forecast that the jobless rate will finish the year at 4.5%, falling to 3.8% in 2022.

Additionally, almost half (46%) of respondents don’t expect the labour force participation rate to return to its pre-Covid average until beyond the end of 2022, and another 46% expect it to never regain that level.

The median forecast for GDP growth this year is 5.2%, declining to 3.5% in 2022.

Key upside risks include a faster reopening due to the end of the pandemic, larger consumer spending and supply chain improvements.

On the downside, risks include renewed pandemic-related restrictions, higher inflation and continuing supply chain disruptions.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for Advisor.ca and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.