Last week Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said that the Fed could hold off on another interest rate increase at its June 14 meeting. That comment wz one reason that the CME FedWath tool showed the odds of no increase at the meeting jumping to 82.6% on Friday, May 19.
But today, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard and Neel Kashkari, head of the Minneapolis Fed said, essentially, that “could” doesn’t mean will. Bullard backed two more 2023 interest-rate increases and Kashkari said if the central bank pauses next month it should signal tightening isn’t over.
“I think we’re going to have to grind higher with the policy rate in order to put enough downward pressure on inflation and to return inflation to target in a timely manner,” Bullard told an American Gas Association financial forum in Florida. “I’m thinking two more moves this year–exactly where those would be this year I don’t know–-but I’ve often advocated sooner rather than later,” he said.
Kashkari, an inflation hawk, said he’d be comfortable with not lifting rates in June, provided officials leave the door open to going higher if price pressures fail to ease as expected. “I think right now it’s a close call, either way, versus raising another time in June or skipping. What’s important to me is not signaling that we’re done,” Kashkari said in an interview on CNBC. “If we were to skip in June that does not mean we’re done with our tightening cycle, it means to me we’re getting more information. Do we then start raising again in July, potentially?” he said.
With its benchmark short-term interest rate at a 5% to 5.25% target range, Powell said Friday that policymakers could afford to watch the data and the evolving outlook.
Today, with those remarks from Bullard and Kashkari in circulation, odds of a 25 basis-point increase in interest rates at the June 14 meeting rose to 26.8% on the CME FedWatch tool from 17.4% on Friday. Odds that the Fed will stand pat fell to 73.2% today.