‘What’s the rush?’ Fed’s Waller says interest-rate cuts can wait

Federal Reserve Gov. Chris Waller said there’s “no rush” to reduce U.S. interest rates in light of stronger-than-expected readings on inflation and economic growth early in the new year.

“The data that we have received since my last speech [ Jan. 16] has reinforced my view that we need to verify that the progress on inflation we saw in the last half of 2023 will continue,” he said at a speech in Minneapolis Thursday night. “And this means there is no rush to begin cutting interest rates to normalize monetary policy”

Waller and other Fed officials have made a concerted effort in the past few weeks to brush back Wall Street’s previous forecast of rate cuts as early as March.

Waller had been one of the more hawkish Fed officials in 2022 and 2023 in urging higher rates to squash inflation, but he began to soften his tone toward the end of last year as inflation waned.

Yet like other senior Fed officials, Waller said he wants to see more proof that inflation is slowing toward the central bank’s 2% target before he’ll support a reduction in interest rates.

The most recent inflation reports in January haven’t bolstered the case for rate cuts anytime soon. The consumer and producer price indexes came in hotter than expected.

“Last week’s report on consumer prices in January was a reminder that ongoing progress on inflation is not assured,” Waller said.

“While I believe inflation is likely on track to reach 2% in a sustainable manner, I am going to need to see more data to sort out whether
January’s CPI inflation was more noise than signal,” Waller said.

“This means waiting longer before I have enough confidence that beginning to cut rates will keep us on a path to 2% inflation.”

Waller also doesn’t think the current level of interest rates — the highest in 23 years — are going to do serious damage to the economy.

“There are no indications of an imminent recession,” he said.

Wall Street
appears to have gotten the Fed’s unified message. Investors are now betting the first reduction in rates won’t take place until the spring or early summer.

Previously they were predicting a rate cut as soon as March.

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