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Jeanna Smialek: Fed Chair’s Confidence in Slowing Inflation Is 'Not as High’ as Before

Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, reiterated Tuesday that policymakers were poised to hold interest rates steady at a high level as they waited for evidence that inflation is slowing further.

Fed officials entered 2024 expecting to make interest rate cuts, having lifted borrowing costs sharply to a more than two-decade high of 5.3 percent between 2022 and the middle of last year. But stubbornly rapid inflation in recent months has upended that plan.

Central bankers have been clear that rate cuts this year are still possible, but they have also signaled that they are planning to leave interest rates on hold for now as they wait to make sure that inflation is genuinely coming under control.

Speaking during a panel discussion in Amsterdam, Mr. Powell said officials had been surprised by recent inflation readings. The Consumer Price Index inflation measure, which is set for release on Wednesday, came down rapidly in 2023 but has gotten stuck above 3 percent this year. The Fed’s preferred measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, is slightly cooler, but it, too, remains well above the Fed’s 2 percent inflation goal.

“We did not expect this to be a smooth road, but these were higher than I think anybody expected,” Mr. Powell said on Tuesday of recent inflation readings. “What that has told us is that we will need to be patient and let restrictive policy do its work.”

Mr. Powell said that he expected continued growth and a strong labor market in the months ahead, and that he believed inflation would begin to slow again.

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Posted: May 14, 2024 Tuesday 02:40 PM