Massive support from the Federal Reserve has sent U.S. stocks and bonds soaring and enriched investors ever since markets almost collapsed at the onset of the pandemic. Now, the party may be ending.
The central bank plans to begin yanking back its extraordinary assistance to the economy as early as next month, and many Fed officials are open to increasing interest rates next year — far earlier than expected — driven by fears that production and shipping delays will continue to stoke inflation. Chair Jerome Powell has sounded increasingly pessimistic over the past week about those supply chain disruptions, a concern shared by central bankers around the globe.
The Fed’s withdrawal comes at a particularly precarious moment for the economy. The trillions of dollars in relief passed by Congress over the past 18 months is rapidly wearing off. Washington is on a knife’s edge over a new wave of longer-term spending on infrastructure and social programs. And globally, major economies such as China are sending worrying signals — all while the world struggles to get through the resurgent coronavirus.