Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, hinted on Friday that markets had gotten ahead on anticipation that the central bank – which has raised interest rates rapidly this year – would soon start to pull back.
“I’m surprised by the markets’ interpretation,” Kashkari said in an interview. “The committee is united in our determination to bring inflation down to 2%, and I think we will continue to do what we need to do until we are satisfied that inflation is indeed coming back down to 2% – and we are far from it.
Fed officials raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point this week, their second straight increase in supersized rates and a move that took their policy to a range of 2.25 to 2.5%. This is roughly what policymakers see as a neutral framework, which neither fuels nor slows growth, and further increases in interest rates will begin to actively dampen the economy.
Given this fact, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed Chairman, said policymakers would now set rates meeting by meeting rather than committing to a general plan well in advance. Investors took this as a sign that the central bank was likely to slow rate moves sharply in the coming months as the economy slows. In fact, bond market prices suggest investors think officials may even start cutting interest rates next year.
“I don’t know what the bond market is looking at to come to that conclusion,” Kashkari said, adding that the bar would be “very, very high” for lowering rates.
Kashkari said it was too early to know how appropriate a rate hike might be in September, but that raising rates by half a point at upcoming Fed meetings “seems reasonable to him” .
He noted, however, that the inflation data had been surprisingly “in the wrong direction” and that the continued rise in core inflation could lead him to believe a three-quarter point move would be needed. (Core inflation excludes volatility in fuel and food prices to get a signal of underlying inflationary pressures.)
The difficult question to answer, Mr. Kashkari said, is how much interest rates will have to rise to bring inflation down.
“How much will we have to do to break the inflation cycle and bring inflation down?” said Mr. Kashkari. “No one knows.”
But, he added, “We know we have a job to do and we are committed to doing it.”