The Reporter (Lansdale, PA)

Another week, another inflation report

And more interest rate resetting

- By Tom Hudson

Last week it was an inflation report followed by a recalibrat­ion of how high the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates to cool it down.

It may be the same in the week ahead.

The central bank’s favored inflation gauge, the Personal Consumptio­n Expenditur­e, will be released on Thursday. Don’t be shocked if it mimics what the January Consumer Price Index reported. Last month’s CPI showed prices increased from a month earlier while continuing their months-long trend of slowing compared to a year earlier. Still, inflation remains uncomforta­bly high, posing an everpresen­t risk to the economy.

Four regional Federal Reserve presidents were exercising the bank’s open mouth policy the same day as the CPI data last week.

“Normalizin­g” is how Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin described inflation to Bloomberg TV. “It feels to me like the risk is on the inflation side at this point rather than the economy side.” Meaning: rates still need to go higher.

The central bankers are balancing a strong job market helping support inflation through wage increases with escalating borrowing costs in the effort to slow inflation. Expect more open mouth exercises in the week ahead.

Traders, economists and Fedwatcher­s talk about a “terminal rate.” That’s the interest rate the Federal Reserve will stop raising its target short-term rate. Is it 5%? 5.5%? 6%?

The target range today is 4.5%-4.75%. The market is predicting a terminal rate of 5.5% this summer, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

So, further tightening is likely. Just how much is what has investors anxious because the expected terminal rate continues climbing. The anticipate­d terminal rate was 4.6% just five months ago. By December, that had increased to 5.1%.

Demand-side economist John Maynard Keynes is often cited as having said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.” Even though the accuracy of that attributio­n is questionab­le, the sentiment continues to be the Fed’s playbook.

And Thursday’s PCE data likely will be more evidence that the Fed’s mind on how high interest rates need to go in its inflation fight is changing.

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