Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell Indicates More Stringent Interest Rate Hikes Are Possible
Is the US Federal Reserve Preparing for Interest Rate Hikes?
In a recent congressional appearance, Jay Powell, the chair of the US Federal Reserve, warned that the central bank is prepared to increase interest rate rises to fight persistently rising inflation. Moreover, Powell hinted that the Fed is ready to push the economy further and ratchet up rate increases in response to the recent stronger-than-expected economic data. His hawkish rhetoric has sparked a stock market sell-off, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq falling and traders now betting on a half-point rate rise at the Fed’s March 21-22 meeting.
Significant Increase in Interest Rates
The Fed has reduced the size of its rate rises since last June by 0.75 percentage points to a half-point rise in December and again in February to a quarter-point increase. As a result, the central bank’s interest rate now stands at a target range between 4.5% and 4.75%. However, Powell’s comments suggest that the Fed will squeeze the economy further to push inflation down, with a projected peak interest rate of 5.1% this year. This hawkish tone from Powell is similar to that of Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, who also advocated further action to tackle the inflation “monster.”
Concerns from Democrats
The Fed’s tightening monetary policy has raised concerns among Democrats who fear that further interest rate hikes could trigger a recession, undermining the labor market gains achieved during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Powell maintained that softening labor market conditions are very likely to get the core inflation to the Fed’s target of 2% from January’s level of 4.7%, implying possible job losses to come.
- Two critical data releases before the Fed’s upcoming meeting this month, the monthly jobs report on Friday and the consumer price index report for February, are set to inform its next rate decision.
- Both Powell and Lagarde’s hawkish rhetoric aligns with concerns over rising inflation as the COVID-19 pandemic recovery progresses. As a result, financial markets expect the European rate to rise from 2.5% to above 4%.
- Andrew Bailey, Bank of England governor, has been cautious in giving aa clearsteer on UK interest rates, unlike Powell and Lagarde.
IThe US Federal Reserve appears to bepreparing for significant interest rate increases to tackle rising inflation. This hawkish tone from the Fed chair has sparked a stock market sell-off, with traders betting on a half-point rate rise at the next policy meeting. Democrats have expressed concerns that tighter monetary policy could trigger a recession. Still, Powell suggests that a softening labor market is likely necessary to get the core inflation to the Fed’s 2% target from January’s level of 4.7%.
The US Federal Reserve is prepared to take significant steps to combat rising inflation. However, while traders are betting on significant rate rises, Democrats fear such actions could trigger a recession, undermining the labor market gains achieved during the recovery of the pandemic. It remains to be seen how far the Fed will go, but Powell’s hawkish tone suggests that significant interest rate increases could be on the horizon.