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Federal Reserve Chairman Powell Stresses Patience on Rate Cuts Amid Inflation Uncertainty

Updated: May 9

Jerome Powell, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, indicated in a recent address that determining the future path of inflation will require time, making the prospects of interest rate reductions uncertain for now.

Addressing the issue of unexpectedly high inflation at the beginning of the year, Powell emphasized that there is no urgency to modify the current monetary stance.

During a speech prior to a Q&A session at a policy conference at Stanford University, Powell remarked, "It's premature to conclude if the latest inflation figures are merely a temporary fluctuation."

He further stated, "We anticipate maintaining the current policy rate until we are more confident that inflation is steadily moving back to our 2 percent target. Considering the economic resilience and inflation progress to date, we can afford to wait for more data to inform our policy decisions."

These comments were made two weeks following the Federal Open Market Committee's decision to maintain the short-term borrowing rates, highlighting the need for "greater confidence" before any rate reductions are considered.

Market participants are recalibrating their expectations for the Federal Reserve to begin reducing policy tightness within the year, though the exact timing and magnitude remain fluid, especially as inflation persists above target levels. Despite this, strong labor market and consumer spending figures provide the Fed with leeway to evaluate the situation further.

The Fed's preferred inflation metric, the personal consumption expenditures price index, recorded a 12-month increase of 2.5% in February, with the core index, which omits food and energy prices, at 2.8%. Most other inflation indicators suggest rates above 3%.

"Recent job and inflation data have exceeded expectations," Powell observed, adding that these figures do not significantly alter the broader economic outlook of steady growth and a rebalancing job market, with inflation expected to gradually decrease toward 2% through an uneven trajectory.

In line with the Fed's cautious approach, other Federal Reserve officials have shared their perspectives. For instance, Raphael Bostic from the Cleveland Fed mentioned the possibility of a single rate cut, given the rising costs of certain key items.

Mary Daly from the San Francisco Fed considered three rate cuts as a "reasonable baseline," without guarantees, and Loretta Mester anticipated likely rate reductions later in the year, albeit with expectations for higher long-term rates. All three are voting members of the FOMC.

Powell stressed that policy decisions are assessed "meeting by meeting," hinting at possible rate cuts "at some point this year."

The ongoing uncertainty around interest rates has led to market volatility, with significant stock market drops and adjustments in fed funds futures reflecting skepticism about a June rate cut.

Additionally, Powell highlighted the importance of the Fed's independence, especially in the context of the upcoming presidential election, underscoring the Fed's commitment to unbiased and politically detached economic analysis.

He also addressed concerns about the Federal Reserve's role in climate change policy, clarifying, "We are not climate policymakers," emphasizing the institution's focus on its core mission without succumbing to "mission creep."


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