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Fed Officials Say Rates Close to Peak, More Increases Possible

The US economy has not yet slowed enough to put inflation on a sustainable trajectory downward.

Two Federal Reserve officials said policymakers may be close to being done with interest-rate increases, but one held back from ruling out further hikes until inflation is more clearly on a downward path. 

“We may need additional increments, and we may be very near a place where we can hold for a substantial amount of time,” Boston Fed President Susan Collins said Thursday during an interview with Yahoo! Finance ahead of the Kansas City Fed’s annual economic policy symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 

“I do think it’s extremely likely that we will need to hold for a substantial amount of time but exactly where the peak is, I would not signal right at this point,” said Collins, who does not vote on policy decisions this year. 

The US economy has not yet slowed enough to put inflation on a sustainable trajectory downward, Collins told the Financial Times, adding that “that resilience really does suggest we may have more to do.”

Speaking separately on Thursday, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker repeated his view that the Fed has “probably done enough” on tightening policy and should keep interest rates at restrictive levels while it assesses the impact on the economy.

“We are in a restrictive stance,” Harker, a voting member on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, said during an interview with CNBC. “I’m in the camp of ‘let the restrictive stance work for a while, let’s just let this play out for a while, and that should bring inflation down’.” 

Central bankers from around the world are gathering in Jackson Hole for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual two-day gathering. Investors will parse everything out of the symposium for clues on the outlook for interest rates, which the Fed in July lifted to a range of 5.25% to 5.5%, the highest level in 22 years. Officials have more economic data to review before their next meeting on Sept. 19-20, including a monthly jobs report and fresh readings on inflation. 

Their economic projections released in June show the median official expected to raise rates at least once more this year. But investors largely expect the Fed to keep rates steady through year end, according to pricing in futures contracts.  


Reaccelerating Economy

Former St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said during an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday morning that a pickup in economic activity this summer could delay plans for the Fed to wrap up interest-rate increases. 

Bullard, who resigned last month to become dean of Purdue University’s business school and did not attend the conference, reiterated remarks he made earlier this week that recession fears have been overblown and stronger economic growth could require higher rates to keep battling inflation. 

“This reacceleration could put upward pressure on inflation, stem the disinflation that we’re seeing and instead delay plans for the Fed to change policy,” said Bullard, who was an influential voice at the Fed who called for aggressive interest-rate hikes to fight the recent inflation surge. 

“I think the probabilities are that we are in a new regime that will be a higher interest-rate regime,” he said. 

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