Fed’s Cook: ’At some point’ it will be time to cut interest rates

USA-FED/COOK (UPDATE 1):UPDATE 1-Fed's Cook: 'At some point' it will be time to cut interest rates

First Published25 Jun 2024, 11:03 PM IST
Fed's Cook: 'At some point' it will be time to cut interest rates
Fed’s Cook: ’At some point’ it will be time to cut interest rates

(Adds additional comments on economy, monetary policy)

By Michael S. Derby

NEW YORK, June 25 (Reuters) - Federal Reserve Governor Lisa Cook said on Tuesday the U.S. central bank is on track for a rate cut if the economy’s performance meets her expectations, but she declined to say when the Fed will be able to act.

“Our current policy is well positioned to respond as needed to any changes in the economic outlook,” Cook said in a speech given before a gathering of the Economic Club of New York.

“With significant progress on inflation and the labor market cooling gradually, at some point it will be appropriate to reduce the level of policy restriction to maintain a healthy balance in the economy,” she said, adding “the timing of any such adjustment will depend on how economic data evolve and what they imply for the economic outlook and balance of risks.” Cook deemed the current setting of monetary policy as “restrictive.”

Cook spoke in the wake of a rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee meeting earlier this month that left in place the 5.25% to 5.5% federal funds rate target. At the meeting, officials also pared back forecasts of rate cuts for this year to one, from the three that were penciled in after the March meeting.

Officials have backed away from the prospect of rate cuts after inflation data over the start of the year proved stronger than expected, in turn making it less clear when the Fed would be able to get inflation back down to its 2% target.

Some recent inflation data has again shown progress toward lowering price pressures. But mindful of recent setbacks, policymakers have been cautious in providing guidance as to when they will be able to cut interest rates.

Many in markets are eyeing a September cut as likely, while in remarks earlier on Tuesday, Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said she saw no move this year, noting “right now with the uncertainty of the economic outlook and what the data is telling us, we are in a good place right now to understand how that might evolve."

At the same time, some at the Fed have also been noting that labor market considerations are rising in importance for their policy thinking, and that an unexpected weakening on the jobs front could also drive them to lower the cost of short-term borrowing.

In her remarks, Cook said “over the past year, inflation has slowed, and labor market tightness has eased, such that the risks to achieving our inflation and employment goals have moved toward better balance.” She said that she expects the trend of weakening price pressures will come back into play before inflation wanes more robustly next year.

That said, "I don’t think it’s going to stop being bumpy and uneven” on the inflation front while the Fed works to get price pressures back to the 2% target.

When it comes to hiring, the Fed governor said “many indicators suggest the job market is roughly where it was before the pandemic — tight but not overheated.”

Cook also said in her appearance that inflation is no longer the overarching focus of how the Fed conducts monetary policy now and that job market considerations are looming larger in the choices officials will make on rates.

While calling the current level of the unemployment rate "low," Cook said “we have the tools to adjust in the case there is a rapid movement in the unemployment rate." The official added, "things could change very quickly" in the jobs market and the Fed is aware of that, adding "we are attentive to both sides of the dual mandate."

Cook also said in her remarks that the financial system has “some vulnerabilities but also important sources of resilience” and that overall, the financial system does not appear in a place where it would “unusually amplify” any shocks. (Reporting by Michael S. Derby and Ann Saphir; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Chizu Nomiyama)

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First Published:25 Jun 2024, 11:03 PM IST
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