The Federal Reserve has used a dot-plot grid to signal rate hikes since 2012—but the method of tracking the Fed’s intentions may not be a reliable source.
- The original purpose of the dot-plot was to provide a formal way for the Fed to present its intention of keeping interest rates low in the coming years.
- Each dot on the chart represents the Fed’s intended interest rate in the future.
- Now, rather than proving that the Fed intends to keep rates low, the dot-plot shows that rates may go even higher.
- On Wednesday, the central bank will release the predictions for how the Fed expects interest rates to change shortly.
Why it’s news
The Fed will announce how much it plans to increase interest rates this week. The consensus is for a 50-basis-point hike, but it could raise rates by 75 basis points, as it has done the last few times it has announced.
The trouble with the dot plot has always been that the Fed cannot know what the policies will be in the future. A number of circumstances could affect decisions at any point. In fact, reality often differs from dot-plot projections.
Just a year ago, the dot-plot showed that the federal funds rate would reach 0.9% by the end of 2022. Now, with higher inflation, the target rate is expected to be 4.5%.
“The dots are not a great forecaster of future rate moves,” says Fed Chair Jerome Powell adding that the predictions be taken “with a big, big grain of salt.”
With predictions set to be released on Wednesday, onlookers are waiting to see whether or not rates will rise above 5% next year. The Fed is already expected to increase rates by 0.5 percentage points.
However, these projections are not a hard and fast rule. Rather than showing what will happen, the dot-plot shows how officials feel about current economic conditions and can predict how they will react in the changing economic environment.