Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Congress Wednesday that “there is still a long way to go” before its goal of full employment and 2% inflation is achieved, suggesting the central bank may not start to reduce its bond purchases as of yet.
Inflation, which has increased notably, hitting a 13-year high in June, is expected to “remain elevated in coming months before moderating,” said Powell, reiterating that current increases in prices are transitory and tied to the reopening of the economy.
Powell will speak before the Senate Banking Committee again on Thursday.
In his prepared remarks for the testimony, Powell said the talks of tapering, however, will go on though they would communicate the decision to stop the financial support in advance.
“We will continue these discussions in coming meetings” and provide advance notice before announcing a decision to cut the bond purchases, he said.
“Absolutely the Time To Start”
Fed policymakers were divided between believing the recent inflation is temporary and those concerned about it lasting into next year at the mid-June meeting. This led “various” Fed officials to expect the start of tapering down of purchases “earlier” than anticipated.
San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly says it is “absolutely the time to start” having conversations about tapering, adding,
“My own view is we’ll probably be in a good position to taper at the end of this year or early next.”
“It is appropriate to start talking about tapering asset purchases, taking some of the accommodation that we have been providing to the economy down,” she said in an interview with CNBC this week.
“We’ll still be in a very accommodative position with a low funds rate, but we don’t need all the tools we see the economy get its own footing.”
Fed St. Louis President James Bullard is also in favor of slowing the pace of purchasing with the economy looking to grow at 7% and the pandemic under “better control.”
In an interview this week with WSJ, Bullard said the Fed could do it “gently and carefully.”
“I think we’re in a very good position to start a taper. I don’t need to get going tomorrow, but I think we’re in very good shape for this.”
Monetary Policy Still “Supporting Demand”
The Fed is currently buying $120 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities to keep the long-term interest rates near zero.
Unlike other officials, Powell is not feeling the tapering yet as he assured the market that tapering is “still a ways off” and that “monetary policy is supporting demand” in the economy.
Also, he doesn’t see the inflation spike lasting longer than expected and hurting the recovery. “It’s a perfect storm of high demand and low supply, and it shall pass,” he said. The same goes for the labor market, which has continued to improve, but there’s “still a long way to go.”
With Powell in no hurry for normalization despite surging inflation as the economy opened after months of lockdown, gold responded positively, climbing to $1,832. Traditionally, the precious metal is seen as an inflation hedge.
Unlike gold, a risk-off asset, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are seen as risk-on assets and are mainly uncorrelated to traditional markets. Currently, Bitcoin is consolidating after the sell-off in May.