Federal Reserve official says more U.S. rate hikes likely will be needed to bring down inflation

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The U.S. Federal Reserve will likely need to raise interest rates further to bring down inflation, Governor Michelle Bowman said on Saturday.

Bowman said she supported the Fed’s quarter-point increase in interest rates last month, given still-high inflation, strong consumer spending, a rebound in the housing market and a labor market that is helping to feed higher prices.

“I also expect that additional rate increases will likely be needed to get inflation on a path down to the FOMC’s 2 percent target,” she said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Kansas Bankers Association, referring to the Fed’s rate-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee.

Monetary policy is not on a “preset course,” she also said, and data will drive future decisions.

“We should remain willing to raise the federal funds rate at a future meeting if the incoming data indicate that progress on inflation has stalled.”

Bowman has frequently expressed views that are more hawkish than some of her colleagues.

In forecasts published in June, most Fed policymakers expected to end the year with the Fed policy rate at 5.6%, one quarter-point hike above the setting established at the Fed’s late-July meeting.

Bowman’s use of the plural “rate increases” in her remarks on Saturday indicates she thinks the Fed will need to go higher than that.

After the most recent rate hike, Fed Chair Jerome Powell left the door open to another increase in September, but also signaled that cooler data could allow a pause.

Bowman noted some progress on inflation, which by the widely followed consumer price index slowed to a 3% annual rate in June, down from 9% in the middle of last year.

“The recent lower inflation reading was positive, but I will be looking for consistent evidence that inflation is on a meaningful path down toward our 2 percent goal as I consider further rate increases and how long the federal funds rate will need to remain at a restrictive level,” she said.

“I will also be watching for signs of slowing in consumer spending and signs that labor market conditions are loosening.”

The Labor Department’s monthly job market report on Friday showed hiring slowed in June, but unemployment, at 3.5%, remains slow, and Bowman noted there are still many more available jobs than there are workers to fill those jobs.

Banks also continue to increase lending to households and businesses, albeit at a slower pace than when interest rates were lower, with no sharp contraction of credit since the banking turmoil in March, she said.

Reuters reporting by Ann Saphir; Reuters editing by Tom Hogue

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