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Fed prepared to raise interest rates ‘aggressively,’ says Powell

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WASHINGTON: The US central bank is prepared to raise interest rates by bigger steps than the quarter-point hike announced last week if needed to contain “much too high” inflation, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Monday.

Consumer prices in the world’s largest economy have surged to the highest seen in four decades, and the Fed last week raised the benchmark lending rate for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began to try to tamp down inflation pressures.

“If we conclude that it is appropriate to move more aggressively by raising the federal funds rate by more than 25 basis points at a meeting or meetings, we will do so,” he said in a speech to an economics conference.

Inflation was already rising before the Russian invasion of Ukraine added to new price pressures and supply chain impediments that could spill over to the US economy, he told the National Association for Business Economics.

“There is an obvious need to move expeditiously” to remove the stimulus the Fed provided to the American economy during the pandemic, but Powell said central bankers are prepared to go beyond “neutral” and tighten policy if needed to achieve their goal.

Last week’s rate hike was billed as the first in a series, and several policymakers have expressed willingness — or the need — to move in bigger steps.

“We are committed to restoring price stability while preserving a strong labor market,” Powell said.

He was optimistic the Fed can achieve that without tipping the US economy into a recession, an elusive goal known as a “soft landing.”

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