Powell Says Interest-Rate Pause Is Likely Temporary

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has stated that the pause in interest rate hikes is likely to be temporary, indicating that the central bank may resume its gradual increase in borrowing costs in the near future. Powell’s comments, made during his Congressional testimony on monetary policy, came as a surprise to many market participants who were expecting a longer pause in rate hikes.

The Federal Reserve has been gradually raising interest rates since December 2015, in an effort to normalize monetary policy after years of near-zero rates following the financial crisis. However, the bank decided to pause its tightening cycle at its meeting in January, citing concerns about global economic growth and uncertainty surrounding trade tensions.

During his testimony, Powell emphasized that the economy remains solid, with strong job growth and inflation near the Fed’s 2 percent target. He also expressed confidence that the central bank can achieve a soft landing by keeping a close watch on economic data and adjusting its policy stance as necessary.

Market reaction to Powell’s remarks was mixed, with some investors interpreting them as a signal that the Fed is ready to resume raising rates as early as its next meeting in March. Others took a more cautious approach, noting that the central bank will likely wait for more clarity on the economic outlook before making any further moves.

One of the key factors that will influence the Fed’s decision on interest rates is the outcome of ongoing trade negotiations between the United States and China. Powell acknowledged that uncertainty surrounding trade policy is a major concern for businesses and can have a significant impact on the economy. The resolution of trade disputes and an improvement in global economic conditions could provide the impetus for the Fed to resume rate hikes.

Another factor that will influence the central bank’s decision is inflation. Despite recent softness in price indicators, Powell reiterated his belief that inflation will gradually move toward the Fed’s target as the labor market continues to tighten. If inflationary pressures begin to build, the central bank may feel compelled to resume raising rates to keep prices in check.

Powell also addressed concerns about the size of the Fed’s balance sheet, which ballooned to over $4 trillion during its quantitative easing program. He stated that the bank is considering ending its program to reduce the balance sheet later this year, but will be flexible and adjust its plans if necessary.

Overall, Powell’s comments suggest that the pause in interest rate hikes is likely to be short-lived. The Federal Reserve remains committed to a gradual tightening of monetary policy in order to sustain the economy’s current expansion and keep inflation in check. However, the central bank will closely monitor economic data, trade developments, and inflation trends before making any further moves. Investors will pay close attention to upcoming meetings and announcements from the Fed to gauge the timing and pace of future rate hikes.

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