Fed’s Powell: Rate Cuts Likely This Year, but More Evidence Is Needed


(Headline USA) With former President Donald Trump having already announced last month that he would not keep Jerome Powell as Federal Reserve chairman, Tuesday’s GOP primary blowout may have given Powell all the evidence he needed that it wasn’t the right time to cut interest rates and jumpstart the economy—just yet.

That will likely be better suited as a late-summer/October surprise, but much still depends on how President Joe Biden holds up in the meantime, and ensuring that the swamp-friendly central bank manipulating the country’s economic conditions doesn’t waste what could be a major ace-in-the-hole on an already doomed Democratic candidacy if Biden is to be replaced after the August convention.

Reminding all of the political impact that his decision is bound to have, Powell reinforced his belief Wednesday that the Federal Reserve would cut its key interest rate this year but said it first wants to see more evidence that inflation is falling sustainably back to the Fed’s 2% target.

That depends largely on whether the Fed continues to flood new “money” into the system— and whether the Biden government continues to spend it with reckless abandon on top priorities such as Ukraine, illegal immigrants, student-loan amnesty and prosecutions of their political enemies, adding a trillion more dollars in federal debt every three months.

Powell’s comments to a House committee largely echoed those he made at a news conference Jan. 31. Since then, government reports have shown that inflation picked up from December to January, and that the process of further slowing inflation would likely be uneven from month to month.

Powell noted that according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, inflation “has eased notably over the past year” even though it remains above the central bank’s target. Nonetheless, that decline follows near-unprecedented spikes in the first years of the Biden presidency, unseen since the end of the Jimmy Carter administration.

Many Americans are continuing to reel from the astronomical cost-of-living increases, with growing concerns that a buildup of debt could eventually cause a bubble to burst and reveal the true impacts of a recessionary economy. Much of the purported economic growth, meanwhile, has benefited noncitizens, according to recent data released by the Center for Immigration Studies.

On the first of his two days of semi-annual testimony to Congress, Powell nebulously suggested that the Fed faced two risks: cutting rates too soon—which could “result in a reversal of progress” in reducing inflation—or cutting them “too late or too little,” which could weaken the economy and hiring.

The effort to balance those two risks marked a shift from early last year, when the Fed was still rapidly raising its benchmark rate to combat high inflation.

The financial markets are consumed with divining the timing of the Fed’s first cut to its benchmark rate, which stands at a 23-year high of about 5.4%. A rate reduction would likely lead, over time, to lower rates for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and many business loans.

Most analysts and investors expect a first rate cut in June, though May remains possible. Fed officials, after their meeting in December, projected that they would cut rates three times this year.

In his remarks Wednesday, Powell offered no hints on the potential timing of rate cuts. Wall Street traders put the likelihood of a rate cut in June at 69%, according to futures prices, up slightly from about 64% a week ago.

Overall inflation has steadily cooled, having measured at just 2.4% in January compared with a year earlier, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge. It is down from a peak of 7.1% in 2022, although other gauges put it closer to double digits.

Yet recent economic data have complicated the picture and clouded the outlook for rate cuts.

Under questioning at the hearing about what more evidence the Fed needed to feel confident that inflation is coming under control, Powell said the policymakers want to see further data similar to what was reported in the second half of last year. Over the past six months, prices have risen at a 2.5% annual rate, not far above the Fed’s target.

“We don’t want to have a situation where where it turns out that the six months of good inflation data we had last year didn’t turn out to be an accurate signal of where underlying inflation is,” he said.

The Fed chair added that with the economy healthy and unemployment low, “we think we can and should be careful” in deciding when to cut the central bank’s benchmark rate.

On a separate topic, Powell replied to a question at the hearing by saying the Fed will alter a central bank proposal that would toughen bank regulation by requiring the 32 largest banks to hold additional capital—assets similar to cash—against potential lending losses.

The biggest banks have criticized the proposal, released last summer, arguing that it would force the banks to reduce lending and slow the economy as a result.

“I do expect there will be broad and material changes to the proposal,” Powell said. “I’m confident that the final product will be one that does have broad support both at the Fed and in the broader world,” he added, acknowledging that some Fed officials opposed the proposal when it was first released.

Just before the hearing, Republicans on the committee denounced the proposed rule and urged the Fed to withdraw it. Powell said the central bank would consider withdrawing it and re-issuing an amended version.

Powell also underscored that the Fed’s policymakers believed they were done raising rates, which are likely high enough to restrain the economy and inflation.

“There’s no reason to think the U.S. economy is in some kind of short-term risk of falling into recession,” Powell said.

He stressed that the Fed’s rapid rate hikes in 2022 and 2023 haven’t led to higher unemployment. However, figures showed that the growth was focused on only three sectors: healthcare, hospitality and government.

The healthcare industry—which includes hospital and ambulance workers—was continuing to recover from major attrition during the pandemic.

Hospitality—or restaurant work—likely was benefiting many illegal immigrants and those seeking second jobs to supplement their income.

The growth in government employment was doing little to actually improve the economy since it was taxpayers who were subsidizing it.

The Fed chair’s testimony to the House Financial Services Committee coincided with intensified efforts by the Biden administration to gaslight the public about the current state of the economy and the president’s handling of it.

Deflecting from the role of wasteful government spending, Biden recently attacked “shrinkflation,” whereby a company shrinks the contents of a product rather than raise its price.

The president has also sought to blame “junk fees,” which, in effect, raise the prices that consumers pay for certain services. However, many of these are tied in with the cost of excess government regulation, such as the Transportation Department’s threat to impose draconian fines on airlines that damage wheelchairs. Such costs undoubtedly will be passed on to consumers, already facing sticker-shock over the surges in air-travel expenses.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press