Senior US Fed official backs 'careful' approach to rate cuts

Senior US Fed official backs 'careful' approach to rate cuts

Michael Barr supports what he called a "cautious approach" to interest rate cuts
Michael Barr supports what he called a "cautious approach" to interest rate cuts. Photo: SAUL LOEB / AFP
Source: AFP

The US Federal Reserve should be careful about the timing of interest rate cuts, a senior bank official said Wednesday, adding to the cautious tone taken by central bank officials in recent months about moving too quickly.

The Fed swiftly raised and then held its benchmark lending rate in a largely successful bid to bring inflation down from multi-decade highs towards its long-term target of two percent.

In December, policymakers on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) indicated they expect three interest rate cuts this year, but did not clarify when the first cut could come -- setting off a wave of speculation in the financial markets.

On Wednesday, the Fed's vice chair for supervision, Michael Barr, told a conference in Washington that policymakers were cautious about moving too soon.

"As Chair Powell indicated in his most recent press conference, my FOMC colleagues and I are confident we are on a path to two percent inflation, but we need to see continued good data before we can begin the process of reducing the federal funds rate," he said.

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"I fully support what he called a careful approach to considering policy normalization given current conditions," he continued.

"We want to make sure that we don't cut prematurely," he said, adding that the Fed would be looking at the "totality of the data coming in."

Barr's comments echo not only his superior's statements last month, but also those of other FOMC members in recent days, who have made clear they feel the Fed can afford to be patient on cuts, and carefully scrutinize the incoming data.

Following remarks by Powell and other FOMC officials, futures traders no longer expect a rate cut in the next two rate meetings in March and May.

Instead, they have assigned a probability of around 80 percent that the Fed will make its first cut by the time of its rate cut in June, according to data from CME Group.

Source: AFP

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