Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said on Wednesday (Jul 5) it was the right move for the central bank to hold rates steady three weeks ago, while hinting at some point it may have to raise rates again amid ongoing economic strength.
“We still have more work to do” to balance supply and demand and get inflation down, Williams said at an event at his bank. He said he’ll be “data dependent” in thinking about future steps for the central bank but added the data support the idea the Fed may need to raise rates further at some point.
Williams declined to say whether he believes a July rate increase is needed and noted his staff has yet to begin the work that would help him decide what to do at the next monetary policy meeting.
Williams said in his appearance that inflation is still too high for his comfort levels, although he also acknowledged price pressures have eased.
“I’m not content” with where price pressures are, Williams said at an event held at his bank. He also said demand for labour remains high and the economy has dealt with rate rises “reasonably well.”
Earlier Wednesday, the Fed released minutes for the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, held over Jun 13 and 14. Then, the FOMC – Williams is its vice-chairman – held rates steady for the first time since starting an aggressive rate rise campaign aimed at cooling high levels of inflation. The minutes said almost all officials favoured holding steady while an unnamed minority were open to an increase.
Fed rate actions have taken the federal funds rate target range from near zero in March 2022 to its current level of between 5 per cent and 5.25 per cent. Fed officials held steady on rates last month to take stock of how past increases are affecting the economy as inflation pressures have been waning.
In recent comments, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has reiterated his view that the central bank is unlikely to be done hiking rates, and he noted that official forecasts released at that meeting pointed to half a percentage points’ further increases this year.
A number of other Fed officials have also spoken in favor of more increases without saying when they might happen. But some, like Atlanta Fed leader Raphael Bostic, have said inflation is already declining in a way that will allow the Fed to hold steady on rates for the foreseeable future.
The Fed’s meeting minutes also showed participants viewed the economy as performing very strongly, even as central bank staffers continued to warn about the prospect of a “mild” recession later this year.
Williams also said that recent divergences between the Fed’s view more rate rises would be needed compared to market views of looming Fed rate cuts have eased, noting markets “have heard the message” from the central bank. He added that to the extent markets are pricing in rate cuts next year it may just reflect a view that inflation will fall, so that in real terms, lower market rates still imply monetary policy is having the same influence on the economy.