Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the central bank was likely to raise interest rates by a half percentage point at its meeting next month and indicated similar rate rises could be warranted after that to lower inflation.
A rate increase in May, following the Fed’s decision to lift rates from near zero by a quarter percentage point last month, would mark the first time since 2006 that the central bank increased its policy rate at back-to-back meetings. A half-point increase would be the first such move since 2000.
The Fed has indicated it will also formally announce plans at the May 3-4 meeting to begin shrinking its $9 trillion asset portfolio in June, a double-barreled effort to remove the stimulus to curb price pressures that are at a four-decade high.
“It is appropriate in my view to be moving a little more quickly” than the Fed has in the recent past, Mr. Powell said Thursday. “I also think there’s something in the idea of front-end loading” those moves.
Mr. Powell spoke Thursday afternoon at a panel discussion with European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde hosted by the International Monetary Fund. It was his last scheduled public appearance before the central bank’s policy meeting next month.
Mr. Powell’s top lieutenants on the central bank’s rate-setting committee had already cemented market expectations of a half-point rate increase at the May gathering.
Fed officials including governor Lael Brainard, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to serve as the central bank’s vice chair, have almost unanimously signaled a desire to raise rates expeditiously to a more neutral setting that no longer provides the stimulus.
New York Fed President John Williams said last week that a half-point rate rise in May was a “very reasonable option.”
Investors in interest-rate futures markets have in recent weeks bet on increases of a half percentage point, or 50 basis points, at each of the Fed’s next two meetings. “Markets are processing what we’re seeing.
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They’re reacting appropriately, generally,” Mr. Powell said, though he said he wasn’t endorsing any particular market pricing. Still, he concluded, “Fifty basis points will be on the table for the May meeting.”
The IMF said Tuesday that it expects global economic growth to slow significantly this year as the repercussions of the war in Ukraine spread worldwide, a setback for many countries already grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic and rising inflation and interest rates.
The IMF expects the world’s economy to grow 3.6% this year, down from 6.1% last year. The new forecast is 0.8-percentage-point lower than its projection in January and a 1.3-point cut from its October 2021 outlook.
The multilateral group, in its flagship World Economic Outlook report, also reduced its 2023 global growth projection to 3.6%, down 0.2 points from its January forecast.
Many emerging-market economies that aren’t major commodity exporters and that took on bigger debt burdens after the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 are increasingly vulnerable to a triple whammy of higher food and energy prices, supply-chain disruptions as China resumes lockdowns to contain new virus strains, and now tighter monetary policy from the Fed.
Europe, meanwhile, faces potentially severe fallout from the ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and steps by the West to isolate Moscow with financial sanctions.
Eurozone energy prices rose 12.5% in March from February and were 44.7% higher than a year earlier, according to the European Union’s statistics agency. Food prices are also rising rapidly, up 0.9% in March and 5% from a year earlier, partly driven by concerns about a shortage of wheat and vegetable oil, which Russia and Ukraine produce in large quantities.
U.K. consumer prices were 7% higher in March than a year earlier, a pickup from the 6.2% rate of inflation in February, and the highest since March 1992, London’s Office for National Statistics said last week.
Ms. Lagarde, the ECB president, refused on Thursday to endorse the prospect that the central bank might raise interest rates in July. “That is going to be determined by the data,” she said. She drew a contrast between high inflation in Europe and the U.S. by saying that the labor market in the U.S. is far stronger. Source: The wall street journal.