The Columbus Dispatch

Powell: Fed not sure on inflation

- Christophe­r Rugaber

WASHINGTON – In a fresh sign of his growing concerns about inflation, Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the Federal Reserve can’t be sure that price increases will slow in the second half of next year.

Powell told the House Financial Services Committee that most economists regard the current price spikes, which have sent consumer inflation to a three-decade high, as largely a response to the pandemic’s disruption­s to supply and demand. As Americans have spent more time at home, they have ramped up spending on furniture, appliances and laptop computers. Demand for such goods, combined with parts shortages, have resulted in supply issues and higher prices.

In the past, Powell has frequently expressed his belief that these supplyand-demand imbalances should fade as the pandemic eases, which would reduce inflation. But on Wednesday, he said that while such an outcome is “likely,” it is only a forecast.

“The point is, we can’t act as if we’re sure of that,” he said. “We’re not at all sure of that. Inflation has been more persistent and higher than we’ve expected.”

At the same hearing Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen clashed with many committee Republican­s, who charged that excess spending by the Biden administra­tion has been a major contributo­r to high inflation. The administra­tion’s proposed $2 trillion social and environmen­tal spending bill, they also argued, would further accelerate inflation.

Yellen countered that the new spending would occur over a decade and would be paid for, which would reduce its inflationary impact. She also argued that the administra­tion’s proposals to spend more on child care subsidies, universal early child care education and the child tax credit would make it easier for many women to return to work after having children. Their return, Yellen said, would help address the labor shortages.

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