Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic said Monday he does not expect any interest-rate cuts this year and well into 2024, even if there’s a recession. If anything, rates will go up because inflation is probably stickier than financial markets are betting.
The Fed raised its key interest rate by a quarter-point in early May to the highest level in 16 years in an effort to slow inflation. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled that it might pause after ordering 10 consecutive rate hikes, which have made borrowing increasingly expensive for families and businesses.
Short-term interest rates are in the 5-to-5.25 percent range.
“The appropriate policy is really just to wait and see how much the economy slows from the policy actions that we’ve had,” Bostic said in a May 15 interview with CNBC’s Steve Liesman on “Squawk Box.”
Market pricing indicates that the Fed is done hiking interest rates and will be cutting rates multiple times before the end of 2023, Jeff Cox wrote for CNBC. “That is based largely on expectations that the economy is headed for a sharp slowdown and a likely shallow recession, which has been predicted by the Fed’s own economists.”
But Bostic said he doesn’t see cuts anytime soon and expects an increase is more likely. He made it clear that he now favors putting policy on hold to see the impact of aggressive Fed tightening since last year, with the economy also facing tighter credit amid banking crises. He also suggested that the next move may be more likely up than down, given the persistence of inflation.
The consumer price index, released in early May, showed headline inflation running at a 4.9 percent annual rate. Core inflation, which excludes food and energy and usually gets more focus from Fed officials was at 5.5 percent, more than double its 2 percent target rate.
“What we’ve seen is that inflation has been persistently high, consumers have been really resilient in terms of their spending, and labor markets remain extremely tight. All of those suggests that there’s still going to be upward pressure on prices,” Bostic said. “If there’s going to be a bias to action, for me would be a bias to increase a little further as opposed to cut.”
Bostic pushed back against bets in financial markets that the central bank will cut interest rates this year and cautioned against taking further hikes off the table if inflation doesn’t slow.
Jeffrey “Bond Market King” Gundlach, the billionaire CEO of DoubleLine Capital, made the case for bonds in January, saying, “investors should look at what the market says over what the Fed says” when it comes to trying to figure out what interest rates will do.
“The Fed is not in control. The Bond Market is in control.” Gudlach tweeted on Jan. 6.
Bostic said he’s optimistic about inflation coming down, noting that less than half the items in the CPI report, which covers the price of multiple goods and services, are higher than 5 percent on an annual basis.
That indicated things are moving in the right direction, he said.
“There’s still a lot of confidence that our policies are going to be able to get inflation back down to our 2% target,” Bostic said. “And to be fully clear, we’re going to do all that we need to make sure that that happens.”