Fed signals interest rate hike firmly on the table for June

Wed May 18, 2016 4:31pm EDT
 
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By Jason Lange and Lindsay Dunsmuir

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve officials felt the U.S. economy could be ready for another interest rate increase in June, according to the minutes from the central bank's April policy meeting released on Wednesday.

Most participants in the policy-setting committee's April 26-27 meeting said they wanted to see signs that economic growth was picking up in the second quarter and that employment and inflation were firming, the minutes showed.

"Then it likely would be appropriate for the committee to increase the target range for the federal funds rate in June," according to the minutes.

The suggestion that a rate increase in June is firmly on the table suggests the Fed is closer to tightening monetary policy again than Wall Street had expected. The Fed lifted rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.

Prices for futures contracts on the Fed's benchmark overnight lending rate implied that investors saw a 34 percent chance of a rate increase next month, up from 19 percent shortly before the release of the minutes, according to CME Group.

U.S. stocks fell and the dollar .DXY extended gains against a basket of currencies after the minutes were released. Treasury yields rose, with the yield on 30-year U.S. government debt rising to a two-week high.

"They are ready to pull the trigger on a rate increase in June," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.

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The Federal Reserve building in Washington September 1,  2015.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/Files