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NEW YORK: The Federal Reserve (Fed), fresh from its biggest interest rate hike in more than a quarter of a century, has signalled that the rising risk of recession would not stop its battle to bring down searing inflation that’s punishing American households.
“The committee’s commitment to restoring price stability – which is necessary for sustaining a strong labour market – is unconditional,” the Fed said in its twice-yearly monetary policy report to Congress, referring to the US central bank’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
“We’re attacking inflation and we’re going to do all that we can to get it back down to a more normal level, which for us has got to be 2%,” Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic told American Public Media’s Marketplace radio programme.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.”
Three weeks ago, Bostic cautioned against overly rapid rate hikes and said the Fed may need to pause tightening in September to assess the economy.
Last Friday he said he supported this week’s hefty rate increase, and that policy needed to be “more muscular.”
Inflation, measured by the personal consumption expenditures price index, is running at more than three times the Fed’s 2% target.
The central bank raised the range for its policy rate by 75 basis points last Wednesday to 1.50%-1.75% and published forecasts showing most policymakers support lifting borrowing costs further this year to perhaps 3.4%, and higher in 2023.
Economists said such sharp increases could spark a recession.
The report’s use of the word “unconditional,” and Bostic’s use of the “whatever it takes” phrase, suggest central bankers are willing to risk a downturn to avoid inflation getting out of control.
“We are with the American people, and trying to make sure that the pain that is experienced, and the discomfort, is as short-lived as possible,” Bostic said.
Fed chair Jerome Powell will update US Congress members soon on the Fed’s plans to fight 40-year high inflation while pursuing maximum employment, its two sometimes conflicting jobs.
Critics say the Fed has acted too late on inflation. Investors have been unnerved – on Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 5.79% last week, its biggest weekly drop since March 2020.
Speaking in Barcelona last Friday, St Louis Fed president James Bullard said the Fed and the European Central Bank “have considerable credibility, suggesting that a soft landing is feasible” on both continents. — Reuters