Reacting strongly to persistent high inflation and the weak dollar, the Federal Reserve Board yesterday raised its discount rate to a record 8.5 percent.
It was the sixth increase this year in the rate the nation's central bank charges its member banks for loan.
Analysts said the increase signals further moves by the Federal Reserve to raise other interest rates in its fight against inflation.
The Fed action came as many of the nation's major banks were raising their prime rates to 10 percent. This is the interest they charge their best corporate borrowers for short-term loans.
It also came shortly after an unexpected spurt in food price inflation in September. Food prices, which rose sharply in the first six months of the year, had declined in July and August.
Two of the seven Federal Reserve Board governors dissented from yesterday's decision, including the newest member, Nancy Teeters.
Teeters said in an interview after yesterday's action that interest rates "are high enough. There is a limit to how far fiscal policy and monetary policy can go," in fighting inflation.
Teeters, former chief economist for the House Budget Committee, was sworn in last month as the first female Fed governor. She said the board has pushed interest rates so high that there could be a detrimental effect on economic growth.
Many administration economists also are worried the Fed is pushing up interest rates so fast that the economic expansion could be choked off and a recession could ensue.
The Fed also is trying to keep interest rates higher here than abroad. That should encourage foreigners to invest funds in the United States and some domestic borrowers to get their loans abroad. Both actions would strengthen the dollar.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman G. William Miller, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, has conceded that as long as the burden of fighting inflation rests solely on monetary policy there is a strong risk that a recession could be triggered. He has called on President Carter to institute a program to hold down wage and price increases.
Carter's top economic advisers have been developing such a plan for months. The president is expected to unveil it soon.It is expected to include guidelines for wage and price increases.
Yesterday's action by the Federal Reserve only adds to the pressure on Carter to announce a tough program.
But the higher rates also will make it more difficult for the president to gain cooperation from organized labor in his new "voluntary" wage-price program. "The unions are already wild about high interest rates," one official observed. "This should make them even wilder."
In a speech last month, AFL-CIO President George Meany said voluntary guidelines are not acceptable to organized labor and wage increases are not responsible for the inflation in the economy. Meany specifically said Carter should do something about high interest rates, which increase the cost of borrowing and therefore, he said, the cost of doing business.
Meany said this week he would prefer mandatory controls to voluntary guidelines, which primarily focus on wages.
In announcing the increase yesterday, the Federal Reserve said the "action was taken to bring the discount rate into closer alignment with increased short-term interest rates, and in recognition of continued high inflation, the recent rapid rate of monetary expansion and current international financial conditions."