Last week a bevy of Federal Reserve officials led by New York Fed President John Williams, "who is one of the most senior advisers to Chairman Jerome Powell and helps shape the policy agenda," in the words of the Wall Street Journal, tried to talk down the market's concern that the Fed is about to ratchet up interest rates aggressively, starting with a 50-basis point hike at its next meeting March 15-16.
"There's really no kind of compelling argument that you have to be faster right in the beginning" with rate increases, Williams said last Friday. "There's no need to do something 'extra' at the beginning of the process of liftoff. We can…steadily move up interest rates and reassess. I don't feel a need that we'd have to move really fast at the beginning."
The 50 bp talk got started by St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, who had said earlier that "the best response to this situation [meaning the recent surge in inflation to 40-year highs] is to front-load the removal of accommodation." That provoked a large selloff in the stock and bond markets. Subsequently, several Fed officials and regional bank presidents, including Williams, pushed back on that assessment, saying that the Fed would take a more measured approach to raising rates. The desired path now seems to be a 25-bp increase at the March meeting, following which the Fed would see what effect that would have before taking the next step. Continue reading "Is The Powell Put dead? Maybe Not"