Jerome H. Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, said the central bank has both the tools and resolve to bring down rapid inflation – though he acknowledged that the path to lower price increases could be a painful one.
“The process of getting inflation down to 2 percent will also include some pain, but ultimately the most painful thing would be if we were to fail to deal with it and inflation were to get entrenched,” he said. Powell said, speaking during an interview with Marketplace on Thursday.
Mr. Powell was confirmed to a second four-year term at the head of the Fed on Thursday afternoon. He and his colleagues are facing down a challenging situation: While the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful, inflation is running at nearly the fastest pace in four decades. The central bank is tasked with fostering full employment and price stability, so it is in charge of slowing it down.
Consumer prices climbed 8.3 percent in April from the prior year, and while inflation eased somewhat on an annual basis, the details of the report suggested that price pressures continue to run hot.
The Fed has already begun raising interest rates to try and cool the economy, including making its largest increase since 2000 earlier this month. Mr. Powell and his colleagues have signaled that they will continue to push up borrowing costs as they attempt to restrain spending and hiring, hoping to bring demand and supply into balance and drive inflation lower.
While the Fed chair seemed to rule out a large 0.75 percent rate increase for the time being during a news conference last week – saying such a big move was not currently under consideration – he made clear that it could be appropriate if the economy surprises officials in a negative way.
“If things come in better than we expect, then we’re prepared to do less,” he said. Powell said. “If they come in worse than we expected, then we’re prepared to do more.”
The looming question for the Fed is whether they will be able to slow the economy enough to temper inflation without spurring a recession – something Mr. Powell and his colleagues have repeatedly acknowledged is likely to be a challenge.
“There are huge events, geopolitical events going on around the world, that are going to play a very important role in the economy in the next year or so,” he said. Powell said on Thursday. “So the question of whether we can execute a soft landing or not, it may actually depend on factors that we do not control.”