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US Fed 'not yet' at the point of rate cuts, official says

By AFP

February 3, 2024 10:10 AM


Michelle Bowman

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The US Federal Reserve is on the right track in its inflation fight, but "not yet" at the point where it should begin cutting interest rates, a senior official said Friday.

The US central bank has been on a hiking spree since 2022, lifting its key lending rate and then holding it at a 23-year high as it aims to lower inflation toward its long-term target of two percent.

In recent months, the US economy has shown signs of surprising resilience, even  as the Fed's favored inflation measure has continued its journey downward toward two percent -- fueling optimism it could be almost ready to start cutting interest rates.

On Wednesday, the Fed held rates steady for a fourth straight meeting, while Fed chair Jerome Powell indicated the rate-setting committee doesn't expect to cut interest rates at its next meeting in March.

Speaking at an event in Hawaii on Friday, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said she was encouraged by the recent fall in inflation, and expected price increases would continue to slow further given the high level of interest rates.

"Should the incoming data continue to indicate that inflation is moving sustainably toward our two percent goal, it will eventually become appropriate to gradually lower our policy rate to prevent monetary policy from becoming overly restrictive," she said in prepared remarks.

"In my view, we are not yet at that point," she continued, adding that "a number of important upside inflation risks remain."

Among the upside risks she cited that could reignite inflation was the "prominent risk of spillovers from geopolitical conflicts," a possible nod to the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East.

Easing financial conditions could also stall the progress made against inflation, she said, as could the risk that "continued labor market tightness could lead to persistently high core services inflation."

"I remain willing to raise the federal funds rate at a future meeting should the incoming data indicate that progress on inflation has stalled or reversed," she said.

While Bowman has made similar remarks before, her choice to do so shortly after the most recent Fed interest rate decision underscores policymakers' desire to indicate a willingness to proceed carefully in the coming months.


AFP


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