Fed to deliver another big rate hike as job market fails to cool

The Federal Reserve looks almost certain to deliver a fourth straight 75-basis point interest rate hike next month after a closely watched report Friday showed its aggressive rate hikes so far this year have done little to cool the U.S. labor market.

Pricing of futures tied to the Fed’s policy rate implied a 92% chance that the Fed will raise its policy rate, now at 3%-3.25%, to a 3.75%-4% range when it meets Nov. 1-2.

That was up from about an 85% chance seen before the Labor Department report, which showed employers added a larger-than-expected 263,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5% from 3.7%.

It was the wrong direction for a U.S. central bank intent on slowing demand for labor as a centerpiece of its battle against inflation that is rising at more than triple its 2% target.

The Fed has raised short-term borrowing costs faster this year than any time since the 1980s to take the heat out of the economy and ease price pressures.

The higher rates have noticeably cooled the red-hot housing market, where a scarcity of supply had helped push prices up more than 40% in the first two years of the pandemic. There, with mortgage rates rising to nearly 7%, home sales have slowed and prices gains have slowed dramatically.

A report earlier this week showing job vacancies fell sharply in August, and volatility in global equity prices as the Fed and other central banks have raised rates, had sparked hopes in some quarters that the Fed would soon slow or even stop its rate hikes.

Fed policymakers have consistently pushed back on such a narrative, saying their work to bring down inflation will entail pain and is nowhere near done. Friday’s job report underscored that view.

“If you are someone who is looking for a pause or pivot or whatever it is, they are pretty much flat-out telling you we are not doing that,” said Shawn Cruz, head trading strategist at TD Ameritrade in Chicago. “People keep trying to convince themselves. It’s like are you lying to me or lying to yourself, it seems like a lot of people are lying to themselves that the Fed will stop.”