Sizzling Prices Complicate Fed’s Inflation-Fighting Strategy

Central bank has used communications ahead of its policy meetings this year to influence borrowing costs

Federal Reserve officials have spent the past two months getting investors acclimatized to their plans to slow economic growth and combat inflation by raising interest rates in half-percentage-point increments until price pressures cool.

This coming week’s policy meeting will show whether officials are still comfortable with that approach in light of reports Friday that inflation sizzled in May, hitting a new 40-year high..

and that consumers’ longer-term inflation expectations rose to a new 14-year high. The survey measure is important to central bankers because they believe such expectations can be self-fulfilling.

While some analysts think Fed Chairman Jerome Powell could surprise markets with a larger than anticipated rate increase of 0.75 percentage point, such a move remains unlikely because it would be a notable departure from how the central bank has conducted policy this year.

That is especially the case when officials have other devices at their disposal to signal a more aggressive posture, including in new rate and economic projections to be released Wednesday.

Fed officials said in recent weeks they were likely to follow an anticipated half-point rate rise this coming week with another one in July. But that was before Friday’s reports, which were worse than what officials had expected.

Borrowing costs set by markets have climbed faster than the Fed’s benchmark rate in anticipation of its policy moves.