The U.S. Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the third time this year as it continues to chart a gradual course of rate hikes amid projections of at least three more years of economic growth.
The rate increase announced Wednesday lifted the benchmark overnight lending rate by a quarter of a percentage point to a range of 2.00% to 2.25%. At the current pace of hikes, the benchmark would reach 3.4% by 2020, roughly half a percentage point above the Fed’s estimated “neutral” rate.
The neutral rate refers to the point at which rates neither stimulate nor restrict the economy.
“My colleagues and I are doing all we can to keep the economy strong, healthy and moving forward,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters.
The rate hikes, however, continue to draw criticism from President Donald Trump, who suggested Wednesday he would prefer lower borrowing costs.
“I’d rather pay down debt or do other things, create more jobs. So I’m worried about the fact that they seem to like raising interest rates,” he said at a news conference.
The Fed’s latest projections show the economy continuing to grow at a steady pace through 2019, with gross domestic product growth seen at 2.5% next year before slowing to 2.0% in 2020 and to 1.8% percent in 2021, as the impact of recent tax cuts and government spending fade.
“Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in August indicates that the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a strong rate,” the FOMC said in a statement.
The Fed has now raised rates in seven of the past eight quarters and another increase is expected in December.
“Our view is that the Fed will press ahead with gradual rate hikes for now, but that officials are still underestimating just how quickly the economy is likely to lose momentum next year, as the fiscal boost fades and monetary tightening bites,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told The New York Times. “We expect the Fed to call time on rate hikes and ultimately begin cutting rates by early 2020.”