US Fed: Rate Hike May Come ‘Fairly Soon’

An interest rate hike may come “fairly soon” according to notes from the most recent meeting of top officials of the U.S. central bank.

The assessment by Federal Reserve leaders assumes that data on the job market and inflation continues strengthening at its current pace or faster.

Some Fed officials expressed concern that unemployment might fall so low that it would spark inflation as employers are forced to offer higher wages to attract workers in a tight labor market.

Officials raise interest rates to cool the economy to keep prices from soaring. They worry that an inflationary spike could hurt economic growth.

The Fed is supposed to work toward stable prices and full employment. The most recent unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, which many economists say is pretty much full employment for the large and complex U.S. economy.

The Fed information was published Wednesday after the customary delay of several weeks. The next scheduled meeting of the Fed leadership is in mid-March.

Earlier on Wednesday, a separate report said U.S. home resales surged to a nearly 10-year high in January.

The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales jumped 3.3 percent to an annual rate of 5.69 million homes.

The report says sales are being hampered by the smaller-than-usual number of homes available for sale. The real estate industry group also says sales were up 3.8 percent from the same period a year ago.

Sales growth was stronger than many experts predicted, perhaps because they thought rising prices and interest rates might cool the market a bit.

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