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Little progress has been made in curbing too high inflation

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal Reserve (Fed) governor Philip Jefferson said on Friday that inflation remains too high and there has been “little progress” made toward bringing it down to the central bank’s two-per-cent target, a pessimistic assessment given signs in a report earlier this week that price increases might be slowing.

Jefferson, who was nominated by President Joe Biden earlier on Friday to the position of Fed vice chair, also said in a speech at the Hoover Institution in California that the turmoil in the United States (US) financial system following the failure of three large banks will likely have only a limited impact on the economy.

Jefferson’s potential elevation to the number two spot on the Fed’s seven member board would give him greater influence over interest rate policy and make him a close colleague of Chair Jerome Powell.

While inflation has declined from its June peak by about 2.75 percentage points to 4.2 per cent in March, compared with a year ago, Jefferson said that “nearly all” of the decline stemmed from falling energy and food prices.

“The bad news is that there has been little progress on core inflation,” he said. Core prices exclude the volatile food and energy categories and are considered to be a better measure of underlying inflation.

Jefferson also cited a closely watched metric often cited by Powell, which tracks the prices of services, from medical care to dining out, while excluding energy and housing costs. That measure “has not shown much sign of slowing,” Jefferson said.

After the Fed’s most recent policy meeting last week, the central bank suggested in a statement that it could pause its interest rate increases at its next meeting in June, after lifting its key rate 10 times in a row. The hikes are intended to slow spending, growth, and inflation.

Jefferson did not hint in his remarks whether he would support such a pause. Many Fed officials are closely monitoring the impact of the failure of three large banks in the past two months. A recent Fed report showed that banks have been pulling back on lending for months and slightly accelerated that tightening in the wake of the bank failures.

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, United States. PHOTO: AP
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