By Ann Saphir and Lindsay Dunsmuir
Federal Reserve policymakers on Tuesday promised further rapid interest-rate hikes to bring down high inflation, but pushed back against growing fears among investors and economists that sharply higher borrowing costs will trigger a steep downturn.
“Many are worried that the Fed might be acting too aggressively and maybe tip the economy into recession,” San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said in an interview on LinkedIn. “I am myself worried that left unbridled, inflation would be a major constraint and threat to the U.S economy and continued expansion.”
The Fed, she said, is therefore “tapping the brakes” by raising interest rates to cool demand.
“We are working towards that as quickly as we possibly can, and hopefully Americans everywhere will start to see some relief in their pocketbooks,” she said, adding that she expects the economy to slow but not stop growing.
The Fed earlier this month raised rates by three-quarters of a percentage point — its biggest rate hike since 1994 — to a range of 1.5%-1.75% to battle inflation that is at a 40-year high. Daly last week said she believes another 75 basis-point rate hike next month will be warranted, though on Tuesday she was not asked specifically about July’s meeting.
New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams also said he sees the need to act decisively to curb inflation.
“We need to move expeditiously,” Williams said in an interview on CNBC. “In terms of our next meeting I think 50 (basis points) or 75 is clearly going to be the debate.”
Both Daly and Williams said they expect the unemployment rate to move up a few tenths of a percentage point, from its current 3.6% level, but they both said the labor market is strong and the economy has enough momentum that they do not expect a recession.
In an essay published Tuesday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard pointed to two past examples, in 1983 and 1994, when the Fed raised rates but did not trigger a recession, and said the central bank should aim to follow that example.
The Fed’s “forward guidance that additional policy rate increases are likely in coming months is a deliberate step to help the FOMC more quickly move policy as necessary to bring inflation back in line with the Fed’s 2% target,” Bullard wrote.
The Federal Open Market Committee, known as the FOMC, is the Fed’s policy-setting body.
U.S. consumer confidence dropped to a 16-month low in June on worries about inflation, data from the Conference Board showed Tuesday, a signal that Daly said she is watching closely. read more
“Getting people to feel comfortable that the dollar they earn today will pay for the goods they want tomorrow — that is no longer something people feel that confident in, and we’ve got to restore that confidence,” she said.