Stock Market Plummets as Federal Reserve Raises Interest Rates

Despite repeated objections from President Donald Trump, the Federal Reserve on Wednesday confirmed that it would increase interest rates by another quarter percent.

Officials from the Federal Open Market Committee voted unanimously on the decision, which will raise the benchmark borrowing rate to a range between 2.25 and 2.5 percent, effective today. It marks the fourth rate hike this year and the ninth since December 2015.

The stock market descended into the red, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping 370 points, or 1.56 percent, to 23,305.60, while the S&P 500 shed 40 points, or 1.58 percent, to 2,505.86. The Nasdaq Composite saw a decline of 163 points, or 2.41 percent, to hit 6,620.47.

In a press release from the Fed’s policymaking arm, the committee judged that further increases “will be consistent with sustained expansion of economic activity, strong labor market conditions and inflation near the committee’s symmetric 2 percent objective over the medium term.” It reiterated its continued monitoring of global economic and financial movements, which can impact the outlook for the United States economy.

“2018 has been the strongest year since the financial crisis, and during that period, we’ve had low unemployment and strong growth, and inflation has still remained just a touch below 2 percent,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a subsequent media conference. “I do think that gives the committee the ability to be patient in moving forward. As I mentioned, there’s significant uncertainty about both the path and ultimate destination of further rate increases.”

Overall, the U.S. central bank predicted raising interest rates no more than two times in 2019 instead of the three initially expected. The move follows positive gross domestic product growth, which advanced at a solid 3.5 percent annualized rate in the third quarter. Unemployment remained at its lowest level since 1969 — with the Fed predicting a further drop next year — and wages hit their highest point in a decade.

“Despite this robust economic backdrop and our expectation for healthy growth, we have seen developments that may signal some softening relative to what we were expecting a few months ago,” Powell said.

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