Monetary Policy Report submitted to the Congress on March 1, 2024, pursuant to section 2B of the Federal Reserve Act

While inflation remains above the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) objective of 2 percent, it has eased substantially over the past year, and the slowing in inflation has occurred without a significant increase in unemployment. The labor market remains relatively tight, with the unemployment rate near historically low levels and job vacancies still elevated. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth has also been strong, supported by solid increases in consumer spending.

The FOMC has maintained the target range for the federal funds rate at 5-1/4 to 5-1/2 percent since its July 2023 meeting. The Committee views the policy rate as likely at its peak for this tightening cycle, which began in early 2022. The Federal Reserve has also continued to reduce its holdings of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities.

As labor market tightness has eased and progress on inflation has continued, the risks to achieving the Committee's employment and inflation goals have been moving into better balance. Even so, the Committee remains highly attentive to inflation risks and is acutely aware that high inflation imposes significant hardship, especially on those least able to meet the higher costs of essentials.

The FOMC is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2 percent objective. In considering any adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will carefully assess incoming data, the evolving outlook, and the balance of risks. The Committee does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent.

Recent Economic and Financial Developments

Inflation. Consumer price inflation has slowed notably but remains above 2 percent. The price index for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) rose 2.4 percent over the 12 months ending in January, down from a peak of 7.1 percent in 2022. The core PCE price index—which excludes volatile food and energy prices and is generally considered a better guide to the direction of future inflation—rose 2.8 percent in the 12 months ending in January, and the slowing in inflation was widespread across both goods and services prices. More recently, core PCE prices increased at an annual rate of 2.5 percent over the six months ending in January, though measuring inflation over relatively short periods risks exaggerating the influence of idiosyncratic or temporary factors. Measures of longer-term inflation expectations are within the range of values seen in the decade before the pandemic and continue to be broadly consistent with the FOMC's longer-run objective of 2 percent.

The labor market. The labor market has remained relatively tight, with job gains averaging 239,000 per month since June and the unemployment rate near historical lows. Labor demand has eased—as job openings have declined in many sectors of the economy—but continues to exceed the supply of available workers. Labor supply has trended higher over the past year, reflecting a continued strong pace of immigration and increases in the labor force participation rate, particularly among prime-age workers. Reflecting the improved balance between labor demand and supply, nominal wage gains slowed in 2023, but they remain above a pace consistent with 2 percent inflation over the longer term, given prevailing trends in productivity growth.

Economic activity. Real GDP increased 3.1 percent last year, notably faster than in 2022 despite tighter financial conditions, including elevated longer-term interest rates. Consumer spending grew at a solid pace, and housing market activity started to turn back up in the second half of last year after having declined since early 2021. However, real business fixed investment growth slowed, likely reflecting tighter financial conditions and downbeat business sentiment. In contrast to GDP, manufacturing output was little changed, on net, last year, a downshift following two years of robust post-pandemic gains.

Financial conditions. Conditions in financial markets tightened considerably further over the summer and early fall before reversing course toward the end of the year. The FOMC raised the target range for the federal funds rate a further 25 basis points at its meeting last July, bringing the overall increase in the target range for this tightening cycle to 525 basis points. The market-implied expected path of the federal funds rate has moved up, on net, since the middle of 2023, and yields on longer-term nominal Treasury securities are notably higher on balance. Credit remains generally available to most households and businesses but at elevated interest rates, which have weighed on financing activity. Lending by banks to households and businesses slowed notably since June as banks continued to tighten standards and demand for loans softened.

Financial stability. Overall, the banking system remains sound and resilient; although acute stress in the banking system has receded since last March, a few areas of risk warrant continued monitoring. Upward pressure on asset valuations continued, with real estate prices elevated relative to rents and high price-to-earnings ratios in equity markets. Borrowing from nonfinancial businesses and households continued to increase at a pace slower than that of nominal GDP, and the combined debt-to-GDP ratio now sits close to its 20-year low. Vulnerabilities from financial-sector leverage remain notable. While risk-based bank capital ratios stayed solid and increased broadly, declines in the fair values of fixed-rate assets have been sizable relative to the regulatory capital at some banks. Meanwhile, leverage at hedge funds has stabilized at high levels, and leverage at life insurers increased to values close to the historical averages but with a liability composition that has become more reliant on nontraditional sources of funding. Most banks maintained high liquidity and stable funding, while bank funding costs continue to increase. (See the box "Developments Related to Financial Stability" in Part 1.)

International developments. Following a rebound in early 2023, growth in foreign economic activity was subdued in the second half of last year. Economic growth was particularly weak in advanced foreign economies (AFEs) as monetary policy tightening weighed on activity and high inflation eroded real household incomes. Structural adjustment to higher energy prices in Europe continued to hinder economic performance, while property-sector weakness and sluggish domestic demand restrained Chinese economic activity. Foreign headline inflation has fallen further, reflecting declines in core and food inflation. However, the pace of disinflation has varied across countries and sectors, with the moderation in goods inflation generally outpacing that in services inflation.

Most foreign central banks paused policy interest rate hikes in the second half of last year and have since held rates steady. Policy rate paths implied by financial market pricing suggest that central banks in many AFEs are expected to begin lowering their policy rates in 2024. Several central banks in emerging market economies have already begun easing monetary policy. The trade-weighted exchange value of the U.S. dollar has increased slightly, on net, since the middle of last year.

Monetary Policy

Interest rate policy. After significantly tightening the stance of monetary policy since early 2022, the FOMC has maintained the target range for the policy rate at 5-1/4 to 5-1/2 percent since its meeting last July. Although the FOMC judges that the risks to achieving its employment and inflation goals are moving into better balance, the Committee remains highly attentive to inflation risks. The Committee has indicated that it does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent. In considering any adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will carefully assess incoming data, the evolving outlook, and the balance of risks.

Balance sheet policy. The Federal Reserve has continued the process of significantly reducing its holdings of Treasury and agency securities in a predictable manner, contributing to the tightening of financial conditions.1 Beginning in June 2022, principal payments from securities held in the System Open Market Account have been reinvested only to the extent that they exceeded monthly caps. Under this policy, the Federal Reserve has reduced its securities holdings about $640 billion since mid-June 2023, bringing the total reduction in securities holdings since the start of balance sheet runoff to about $1.4 trillion. The FOMC has stated that it intends to maintain securities holdings at amounts consistent with implementing monetary policy efficiently and effectively in its ample-reserves regime. To ensure a smooth transition, the FOMC intends to slow and then stop reductions in its securities holdings when reserve balances are somewhat above the level that the FOMC judges to be consistent with ample reserves.

Special Topics

Employment and earnings across groups. An exceptionally tight labor market over the past two years has been especially beneficial for historically disadvantaged groups of workers. As a result, many of the long-standing disparities in employment and wages by sex, race, ethnicity, and education have narrowed, and some gaps reached historical lows in 2023. However, despite this narrowing, significant disparities in absolute levels across groups remain. (See the box "Employment and Earnings across Demographic Groups" in Part 1.)

Housing sector. The rise in mortgage rates over the past two years has reduced housing demand, resulting in a steep drop in housing activity in 2022 and a marked slowing in house price growth from its historically high pace. Offsetting factors boosting housing demand, such as the robust job market and the increased prevalence of remote work, have prevented significant price declines. High mortgage rates have also discouraged some potential sellers with low rates on their current mortgages from moving, which has kept the existing home market unusually thin. The shortage of available existing homes has pushed some remaining homebuyers toward new homes and supported a modest rebound in construction of single-family homes later in 2023. In contrast, multifamily starts rose to historically high levels in 2022 but have more recently fallen back because of builders' concerns about the effect of the significant amount of new multifamily supply on rents and property prices. (See the box "Recent Housing Market Developments" in Part 1.)

Federal Reserve's balance sheet and money markets. The size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet has decreased since June as the FOMC continued to reduce its securities holdings. Despite ongoing balance sheet runoff, reserve balances—the largest liability on the Federal Reserve's balance sheet—edged up as declines in the usage of the overnight reverse repurchase agreement facility—another Federal Reserve liability—more than matched the decline in assets. (See the box "Developments in the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet and Money Markets" in Part 2.)

Monetary policy rules. Simple monetary policy rules, which prescribe a setting for the policy interest rate in response to the behavior of a small number of economic variables, can provide useful guidance to policymakers. With inflation easing and supply and demand conditions in labor markets coming into better balance, the policy rate prescriptions of most simple monetary policy rules have decreased recently and now call for levels of the federal funds rate that are close to the current target range for the federal funds rate. (See the box "Monetary Policy Rules in the Current Environment" in Part 2.)

Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Policy Strategy
Adopted effective January 24, 2012; as reaffirmed effective January 30, 2024

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is firmly committed to fulfilling its statutory mandate from the Congress of promoting maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates. The Committee seeks to explain its monetary policy decisions to the public as clearly as possible. Such clarity facilitates well-informed decisionmaking by households and businesses, reduces economic and financial uncertainty, increases the effectiveness of monetary policy, and enhances transparency and accountability, which are essential in a democratic society.

Employment, inflation, and long-term interest rates fluctuate over time in response to economic and financial disturbances. Monetary policy plays an important role in stabilizing the economy in response to these disturbances. The Committee's primary means of adjusting the stance of monetary policy is through changes in the target range for the federal funds rate. The Committee judges that the level of the federal funds rate consistent with maximum employment and price stability over the longer run has declined relative to its historical average. Therefore, the federal funds rate is likely to be constrained by its effective lower bound more frequently than in the past. Owing in part to the proximity of interest rates to the effective lower bound, the Committee judges that downward risks to employment and inflation have increased. The Committee is prepared to use its full range of tools to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.

The maximum level of employment is a broad-based and inclusive goal that is not directly measurable and changes over time owing largely to nonmonetary factors that affect the structure and dynamics of the labor market. Consequently, it would not be appropriate to specify a fixed goal for employment; rather, the Committee's policy decisions must be informed by assessments of the shortfalls of employment from its maximum level, recognizing that such assessments are necessarily uncertain and subject to revision. The Committee considers a wide range of indicators in making these assessments.

The inflation rate over the longer run is primarily determined by monetary policy, and hence the Committee has the ability to specify a longer-run goal for inflation. The Committee reaffirms its judgment that inflation at the rate of 2 percent, as measured by the annual change in the price index for personal consumption expenditures, is most consistent over the longer run with the Federal Reserve's statutory mandate. The Committee judges that longer-term inflation expectations that are well anchored at 2 percent foster price stability and moderate long-term interest rates and enhance the Committee's ability to promote maximum employment in the face of significant economic disturbances. In order to anchor longer-term inflation expectations at this level, the Committee seeks to achieve inflation that averages 2 percent over time, and therefore judges that, following periods when inflation has been running persistently below 2 percent, appropriate monetary policy will likely aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time.

Monetary policy actions tend to influence economic activity, employment, and prices with a lag. In setting monetary policy, the Committee seeks over time to mitigate shortfalls of employment from the Committee's assessment of its maximum level and deviations of inflation from its longer-run goal. Moreover, sustainably achieving maximum employment and price stability depends on a stable financial system. Therefore, the Committee's policy decisions reflect its longer-run goals, its medium-term outlook, and its assessments of the balance of risks, including risks to the financial system that could impede the attainment of the Committee's goals.

The Committee's employment and inflation objectives are generally complementary. However, under circumstances in which the Committee judges that the objectives are not complementary, it takes into account the employment shortfalls and inflation deviations and the potentially different time horizons over which employment and inflation are projected to return to levels judged consistent with its mandate.

The Committee intends to review these principles and to make adjustments as appropriate at its annual organizational meeting each January, and to undertake roughly every 5 years a thorough public review of its monetary policy strategy, tools, and communication practices.


 1. See the May 4, 2022, press release regarding the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet, available on the Board's website at to text

Note: This report reflects information that was publicly available as of noon EST on February 29, 2024. Unless otherwise stated, the time series in the figures extend through, for daily data, February 27, 2024; for monthly data, January 2024; and, for quarterly data, 2023:Q4. In bar charts, except as noted, the change for a given period is measured to its final quarter from the final quarter of the preceding period.
For figures 33 and 40 as well as figure C in the box "Recent Housing Market Developments," note that the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, the S&P 500 Index, and the Dow Jones Bank Index are products of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and/or its affiliates and have been licensed for use by the Board. Copyright © 2024 S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, a division of S&P Global, and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Redistribution, reproduction, and/or photocopying in whole or in part are prohibited without written permission of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC. For more information on any of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC's indices, please visit S&P® is a registered trademark of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC, and Dow Jones® is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. Neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates, nor their third-party licensors make any representation or warranty, express or implied, as to the ability of any index to accurately represent the asset class or market sector that it purports to represent, and neither S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC, Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC, their affiliates, nor their third-party licensors shall have any liability for any errors, omissions, or interruptions of any index or the data included therein.
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Last Update: March 01, 2024