Ranks of Fed officials in no rush to cut rates keep growing

Inflation is proving to be a stickier problem than US central bank officials had anticipated

By Reuters

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John C. Williams, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York speaks to the Economic Club of New York in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/File Photo
John C. Williams, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York speaks to the Economic Club of New York in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/File Photo

Published: Thu 11 Apr 2024, 8:24 PM

The gaggle of Federal Reserve officials voicing no urgency to pivot to interest rate cuts continues to grow, with the head of the New York Fed on Thursday saying no reduction in borrowing costs was needed “in the very near term.”

With that remark, New York Fed President John Williams planted a flag alongside several other policymakers, signaling growing caution about moving too quickly to cut interest rates when inflation appears to be - at best - on a “bumpy” path back to the central bank’s two per cent annual target.


Inflation is proving to be a stickier problem than US central bank officials had anticipated it would be just a couple of months ago, while other measures of the economy show little signs of slowing down. That combination has pushed the anticipated start of an easing cycle further down the road.

The Fed’s stance is currently in a “good place” and “there’s no clear need to adjust monetary policy in the very near term” given where the economy now stands, Williams told reporters after a speech in New York. Williams, the vice chair of the central bank’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, also said rate cuts will be needed “eventually.”


Meanwhile, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin, who had already noted his concerns about the breadth of inflation being hard to “reconcile” with a near-term shift to rate cuts, said the latest numbers “did not increase my confidence” that price pressures were easing on a broader basis throughout the economy.

Williams also nodded to the issues that have arisen in recent data reports, saying there “will likely be bumps along the way, as we’ve seen in some recent inflation readings.”

Still, Williams told reporters that Fed officials have not been surprised by the recent inflation setbacks, and that if there had been surprises it was over how fast price pressures eased last year.

Williams and Barkin spoke a day after consumer price index data came in stronger than expected in March, prompting a broad resetting of expectations for when the Fed will be able to cut rates this year, and leading some economists to predict no reductions in borrowing costs would occur until 2025.

Economists at Wall Street firms, including Barclays and Wells Fargo, shifted their calls after the CPI data, predicting just one or two rate cuts for the year, instead of the previous three moves. Financial market bets on a September start to the rate cuts remained largely intact, though generally cooler-than-expected readings for producer prices in March boosted traders’ collective view of the chances of rate cut by July to nearly even with that of a later start.


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