In a Thursday analyst note to clients, the Goldman economists – led by Jan Hatzius – projected seven, quarter-percentage-point rate increases in 2022, putting the target range between 2.75% and 3% at year's end. Goldman initially forecast five rate hikes in 2022.
The revised outlook comes after the Labor Department reported that the consumer price index rose 7.5% in January from a year ago, marking the fastest increase since February 1982, when inflation hit 7.6%. The CPI – which measures a bevy of goods ranging from gasoline and health care to groceries and rents – jumped 0.6% in the one-month period from December.
The possibility of seven rate hikes this year is also gaining traction among traders: According to the CME's FedWatch tool, traders are now pricing in over a 60% chance of an increase at every Fed meeting this year.
Still, while many traders (about 67%) think there's a chance of a hefty half-point rate jump when policymakers meet next month, the Goldman economists think the Fed will move more incrementally to raise rates. The Fed has not raised rates since December 2018.
"Most Fed officials who have commented have opposed a 50 basis points hike in March," they wrote in a note. "We therefore think that the more likely path is a longer series of 25 basis points hikes instead."
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, one of the central bank's more hawkish policymakers and voting member of the FOMC this year, lent credence to the idea on Thursday, telling Bloomberg News that he wants to see "100 basis points in the bag by July 1." Under that timeline, the Fed would possibly have to factor in a super-sized hike.
"I was already more hawkish but I have pulled up dramatically what I think the committee should do," Bullard said.
Some economists believe the Fed waited too long to confront the burst in inflation, while others have expressed concerns that moving too quickly to stabilize prices risks slowing hiring and potentially leaving many workers, particularly lower-income Americans, without a job. Hiking interest rates tends to create higher rates on consumers and business loans, which slows the economy by forcing employers to cut back on spending.
The Fed's next meeting is scheduled for March 15-16. After that, it has six more meetings in 2022 in May, June, July, September, November and December.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has left open the possibility of a rate hike at every meeting this year and has refused to rule out a more aggressive, half-percentage- point rate increase, but he said it's important to be "humble and nimble."
"We’re going to be led by the incoming data and the evolving outlook," Powell told reporters during the Fed's January meeting.