Mar 30, 2023
Fed Officials See More Work on Inflation Despite Bank Strains
(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve officials continued to stress the need to lower inflation even as they keep an eye on the fallout from the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank earlier this month.
The comments from the three regional Fed presidents Thursday echoed remarks from Chair Jerome Powell last week that policymakers will not shrink from their responsibility to restore price stability despite banking strains.
“Inflation remains too high, and recent indicators reinforce my view that there is more work to do, to bring inflation down to the 2% target associated with price stability,” Boston Fed President Susan Collins told a conference hosted by the National Association for Business Economics in Washington.
Collins, who doesn’t vote on monetary policy decisions this year, said she views quarter-point increases as the “appropriate” pace needed as officials bring rates to a level that is sufficiently restrictive to tame inflation.
Fed officials raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point last week, continuing their year-long fight to cool price pressures despite recent turmoil in the banking system.
The move lifted their policy benchmark to a 4.75% to 5% target range, from near zero in March 2022. Forecasts released at the same time show the 18 officials expect rates to reach 5.1% by the end of the year, according to their median projection, implying one more 25 basis-point hike.
Data out Friday is expected to show price pressures ran at a pace more than double the Fed’s target in February, according to the central bank’s preferred measure.
Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, who votes on policy this year, said it was premature to judge what impact the banking turmoil will have on the economy but the Fed also needs to focus on lowering inflation.
Kashkari, who was at the center of the government’s response to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, said banking stresses tend to last longer than policymakers initially expect. But he also noted that inflation was too high and that the services sector, excluding housing, has yet to slow down despite a series of aggressive interest-rate increases by the Fed over the past 12 months.
“The services part of the economy has not yet slowed down and wage growth is – we want higher wages – but wage growth is still growing faster than what is consistent with our 2% inflation target,” Kashkari, told an audience in St. Paul, Minnesota. “That tells me we still have more work to do to bring the services side of the economy back into balance.”
Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin, speaking at an event in Richmond, said he is poised to continue fighting inflation. But he said that he had no preference yet on the size of the Fed’s next rate move, given the uncertainty around the banking sector and its impact on the broader economy.
“If inflation persists, we can react by raising rates further,” Barkin said. “It was only a few weeks ago that some were calling for a 50 basis-point increase.”
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.