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Can US interest rates be raised to outpace inflation? The Fed will investigate over time.

Photo-AP

In Washington, Federal Reserve officials are expressing concerns that the substantial interest rate hikes implemented over the past couple of years may not be as effective in curbing inflation as previously anticipated. They suggest that the impact of these rate increases on inflation may take longer to materialize, indicating a potential delay in any rate cuts this year. Despite the Fed's efforts to raise rates sharply, there's a realization that higher borrowing costs are not significantly restraining consumer spending, thereby failing to cool inflation as expected.

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This observation raises questions about the effectiveness of the current interest rate policy in addressing inflationary pressures. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, while hinting at the unlikelihood of an interest rate increase, emphasized the need for more time to ascertain whether inflation is indeed moderating as desired. Dallas Federal Reserve President Lorie Logan echoed similar sentiments, indicating that it's premature to consider rate cuts and questioning whether current rates are sufficient to combat inflation. The prospect of prolonged high borrowing costs may disappoint various stakeholders, from prospective homebuyers seeking lower mortgage rates to President Joe Biden hoping for economic stimulus through rate cuts.

Despite expectations of a slight decline in inflation, concerns linger about whether progress in taming inflation has stalled. The Fed's aggressive rate hikes, aimed at curbing inflation, have not substantially increased the percentage of income spent on interest payments by Americans, raising questions about the effectiveness of these measures. Factors such as historically low mortgage rates and pandemic-related debt paydowns have mitigated the impact of higher borrowing costs on consumers and businesses. However, signs of financial strain, such as rising delinquencies on credit cards and auto loans, suggest that the full impact of higher rates may be yet to come. Ultimately, the Fed faces the challenge of balancing the need to control inflation with the potential adverse effects of prolonged high borrowing costs on consumer spending and economic growth.

May 13, 2024 5:29 p.m. 6601

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