U.S. fed funds, eurodollar futures raise rate hike bets after CPI data

By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Futures on the federal funds rate and eurodollars, which track short-term interest rate expectations over a period of several years, raised bets on Tuesday that the Federal Reserve would tighten monetary policy between December 2022 and early in the first quarter of 2023 after stronger-than-expected U.S. inflation data.

The fed funds market showed a roughly 90% chance of a rate hike by December 2022, fully pricing in that scenario by January 2023.

The more liquid eurodollar futures market also indicated a 90% probability of a Fed rate increase of 25 basis points in December 2022, while fully pricing in Fed tightening by March 2023. In May, a rate hike by December 2022 was pegged at 80%, with a 100% chance of tightening around April 2023.

Data showed the U.S. consumer price index increased 0.9% last month, the largest gain since June 2008, after advancing 0.6% in May. The so-called core CPI surged 4.5% on a year-on-year basis, the largest increase since November 1991, after rising 3.8% in May.

"It is going to be difficult for the Fed or any of the talking heads to try to talk it (inflation) away as transitory," said Ken Polcari, managing partner at Kace Capital Advisors in Boca Raton, Florida.

"It raises the conversation, it is significantly stronger and that plays right into the ongoing inflationary concerns."

After the U.S. central bank's June 15-16 monetary policy meeting, which culminated with the release of Fed projections showing a majority of policymakers expected at least two rate increases in 2023, fed funds futures had factored in a 90% chance of a rate hike by January 2023.

Prior to that Fed meeting, the market fully priced in a rate increase by April 2023.

In its policy statement last month, the Fed, however, pledged to keep policy supportive for now to encourage an ongoing jobs recovery.

But the inflation surge could keep the pressure on the central bank to tighten policy, analysts said.

James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, said in a research note that the case for a rate hike next year is strong.

He expects U.S. headline inflation to stay above 4% until the first quarter of 2022, with core inflation unlikely to get below 3% until the summer of next year.

(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Additional reporting by Chuck MikolajczakEditing by Paul Simao)

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