U.S. economic activity was about flat or up only slightly from mid October through late November and there were mixed signals on the persistence of inflation and labor shortages, a Federal Reserve report showed on Wednesday.
The U.S. central bank released its latest snapshot on the health of the economy garnered from business contacts nationwide as it gears up to slow its pace of interest rate hikes at its next meeting on Dec. 13-14, with an eye to reaching a sufficiently high enough level to pause some time in the first half of next year.
The Fed has driven up interest rates this year at the fastest pace since the early 1980s in a bid to quash inflation that has been running at 40-year highs by dampening demand across the economy.
“Interest rates and inflation continued to weigh on activity, and many contacts expressed greater uncertainty or increased pessimism concerning the outlook,” the Fed said in its survey, known as the “Beige Book,” which was conducted across its 12 districts through Nov. 23. “Inflation was expected to hold steady or moderate further moving forward.”
Fed Chair Jerome Powell earlier on Wednesday cautioned the fight with inflation was far from over and that key questions remain unanswered, including how high rates will ultimately need to rise and for how long. A much-anticipated monthly measure of inflation is due on Thursday.
The central bank’s benchmark overnight lending rate currently sits in a target range of 3.75% to 4.00%. Investors overwhelmingly expect the Fed to raise that rate by another 50 basis points at the upcoming meeting.
Inflation remains more than three times the Fed’s target but the most recent reports on price pressures for inputs and labor have provided glimmers of encouragement that high inflation is slowing and may continue to do so.
U.S. job openings decreased in October but remained significantly high while the U.S. economy rebounded more strongly than initially thought in the third quarter, separate government reports showed on Wednesday.