(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said the US central bank is close to the point where it can stop raising interest rates and turn to holding them steady in an effort to further bring down inflation.
“I do believe that we are close to the point where we can hold rates in place and let monetary policy do its work to bring inflation back to the target in a timely manner,” Harker said Thursday during a virtual event with the National Association for Business Economics.
The Philadelphia Fed chief repeated comments from the day before that he’d favor not raising rates at the June meeting, even if officials would then need to increase them again at later meetings.
“I think we should pause, because pause says we’re going to hold for a while — and we might,” he said. “We should at least skip this meeting in terms of an increase. We can let some of these things resolve themselves, at least to the extent they can, before we consider — at all — another increase.”
The Fed has raised rates by 5 percentage points in the past 14 months as it tries to cool inflation. The rapid clip of that tightening has prompted policymakers to say that they may take a pause at their June 13-14 meeting to give the economy time to digest the rate increases.
Harker emphasized that the economic outlook is uncertain and that he’ll assess incoming data to determine whether additional tightening is needed.
Harker, who votes on policy this year, said inflation is still “way above” the Fed’s 2% target. Though down from a peak of 7% reached a year ago, the Fed’s preferred gauge of price changes edged up in April, to 4.4% from 4.2%, Commerce Department data showed last week.
“Disinflation is under way, but it is doing so at a disappointingly slow pace,” Harker said.
He said the labor market is effectively at full employment, but that tighter credit conditions, especially following the collapse of four banks this spring, may slow hiring.
Some of the central bank’s more hawkish members have said more hikes may be necessary at future meetings to fully bring down prices.
In an essay Thursday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, said he believes interest rates are at the low end of what’s likely to be sufficiently restrictive to bring down inflation.
He said monetary policy is in better shape today than it was a year ago, but that “continued vigilance is required” as disinflation is not guaranteed.
--With assistance from Alister Bull.
(Updates with more comment from Harker in fourth paragraph, Bullard in penultimate paragraph.)
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