WASHINGTON (AFP) – The pressures pushing prices to multi-decade highs are likely to last through the middle of the year, and the United States (US) central bank is ready to respond to this risk, but policymakers are committed to extending the economic expansion to promote employment, Federal Reserve Chief Jerome Powell said on Tuesday.
The world’s largest economy is on a strong footing, and with inflation rising and employment recovering, “The economy no longer needs or wants the very highly accommodative policy” provided by the Fed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Powell told lawmakers, underlining the likelihood interest rate increases are coming.
Surging prices for cars, housing and food have become a political liability for US President Joe Biden, who in November tapped Powell, a Republican, to continue in his role as Fed chief for another four years, and also named Fed Governor Lael Brainard, a fellow Democrat, to serve as Powell’s vice chair.
In the nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Powell again vowed that the Fed will do all it can to ensure high inflation does not become entrenched.
Economists are projecting that government data will show annual consumer price inflation hitting seven per cent in December, its highest level in 40 years, and the issue dominated the questions from senators.
Inflation is “very near the top of the list” of risks to the economic outlook, Powell said, acknowledging the current rate is now “very far above target”.
But the Fed chief attributed most of the price surge to a “mismatch” between supply and demand caused by global logistics snarls, although policymakers also are watching wage growth carefully.
The central bank expects a “return to normal supply conditions” in the coming months, but “if we see inflation persisting at high levels longer than expected… we will use our tools to get inflation back”.