Powell’s Words Deceive, Fed’s Actions Suggest Pause

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is not yet celebrating the central bank’s efforts to cool the economy, despite some signs of success. Speaking at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium, Powell painted a picture of an economy in transition, with the Fed’s rate increases and the unwinding of pandemic distortions now working in tandem to bring down inflation. However, he cautioned that the process still has a long way to go, pointing to tightening bank lending standards and slowing industrial production growth as potential headwinds.

Investors initially reacted nervously to Powell’s somewhat hawkish tone, including a pledge to raise rates further if necessary. However, the substance of Powell’s speech suggested that the central bank is in no hurry to make further moves, with any potential rate hike unlikely to occur at the next policy meeting. This cautious stance, coupled with the fact that GDP growth has exceeded expectations and the housing sector appears to be picking up, helped stocks to end the day on a high note.

Fed Chairman Powell Not Rushing to Raise Rates Further

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has hinted at a potential pause in the central bank’s efforts to curb inflation through rate hikes. In a recent speech at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium, Powell presented an ambivalent stance, indicating that while the unwinding of pandemic distortions and the Fed’s rate increases have begun to impact inflation, the process still has a considerable way to go.

Balancing Economic Indicators

Powell’s speech highlighted multiple economic indicators. While bank lending standards have tightened and growth in industrial production has slowed, GDP growth has exceeded expectations, and the housing sector shows signs of recovery. Powell’s comments suggested a willingness to raise rates further if required, initially unsettling investors. However, his general tone indicated that another hike might be unlikely in the next policy meeting, causing stocks to end the day higher.

Powell’s Prudent Position

According to Powell, the central bank is now in a position to "proceed carefully," suggesting the Fed is not eager to take drastic steps. Even if policy makers believe they won’t need to raise rates again, they don’t want to eliminate the option of further increases if inflation veers off course. Powell’s cautious stance is also aimed at preventing a shift in investors’ focus to when the Fed might start cutting rates, which could inadvertently spur the economy when policy makers aren’t prepared for it.

Potential Rate Cuts in the Future?

Interestingly, the Fed’s next move could potentially be a rate cut. Considering the current target on overnight rates is the highest in more than 20 years, even if the equilibrium rate post-pandemic is higher, it’s likely significantly lower than the Fed’s current target. Powell referred to the current policy as restrictive, exerting downward pressure on economic activity, hiring, and inflation.

Decisive Factors for Rate Cut

A rate cut would not necessarily require inflation to reach the Fed’s 2% target. Powell reiterated that a clear trend towards this target would suffice. Such a shift may not happen this year, but by early 2024, Powell might be ready to celebrate the victory of a balanced economy.


The Fed’s cautious approach reflects a careful balancing act between controlling inflation and maintaining economic growth. While the possibility of rate hikes is kept open, the focus now shifts to the potential for rate cuts down the line. Powell’s prudent position and the potential for a rate cut reflect the complexities of economic recovery in the post-pandemic era. The future actions of the Fed will be critical in shaping this recovery.

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