One of the Fed’s most hawkish officials doesn’t see rate cuts happening until ‘well into 2024’

May 15, 2023, 5:45 PM UTC
A picture of Raphael Bostic
Raphael Bostic, Atlanta Fed President, doesn't see rate cuts till "well into 2024."
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Inflation remains high even after the Federal Reserve hiked interest rates 10 times since early 2022 to curb rising prices. In its most recent increase earlier this month, the central bank hinted at possibly suspending the increases.

But now, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic thinks that rate cuts won’t happen anytime soon. In fact, it could take until 2024.

“My baseline case is we won’t be really thinking about cutting till well into 2024,” Bostic told CNBC’s Squawk Box in an interview Monday. “In my world, inflation doesn’t come down that quickly and in that regard, cutting rates doesn’t really fit into that scenario.”

The Atlanta Fed chief said that even within the Fed, there is an ongoing debate about how harsh the impact of rate increases could be on the economy. For now, though, the data may point to a lengthier battle against inflation than many realize.     

“What we’ve seen is inflation has been persistently high, consumers have been really resilient in terms of their spending and labor markets remain extremely tight. All of those suggest that there’s still going to be upward pressure on prices,” Bostic said.  

He noted that the series of  rate hikes have reduced inflation from a 40-year high of 9.1% in June, to 4.9% last month. But despite the downward trend, the inflation rate is far higher than the Fed’s goal of 2%.  

“If you look at most measures of inflation, that’s still two times where our target is. So there’s a long distance still to go,” Bostic said, adding that his advice for the Fed in the coming months would be to “go up” with rates.  

Bostic’s hawkish remarks come just weeks after the Fed indicated it may halt its aggressive rate hikes, which many investors had hoped for and have priced into the stock market. Some experts are worried about the rate hikes causing a recession by slowing the economy’s growth. Others have said that even as inflation cools, interest rate cuts won’t come quickly. But Bostic argues that interest rate increases may continue even if there’s a recession

The Atlanta Fed President has been clear about his view that the Fed must stay the course when it comes to rate hikes as long as inflation is high. In January, Bostic, who doesn’t vote on Fed’s policy this year, said that central bank officials must “hold our resolve” in the battle against inflation, saying that a higher rate will eliminate excessive demand in the economy. 

“Job one for us has got to be to get inflation back under control,” Bostic told Bloomberg in February, following one of the Fed’s rate hikes. “And I’m going to do all I can to see that we do that.”

Bostic said his view is informed by economic data, such as whether it  points at a robust or cooling economy. 

A rate decrease is favored by many experts who feel like inflation has been largely brought under control. Jeremy Siegel, a financial profession at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, said that stock market returns could jump 15% or more this year if the Fed cuts rates, following a tumultuous 2022. But if the Fed doesn’t slash interest rates, the path ahead could be tougher, Siegel said.

The Fed faces a few other challenges along with inflation, including a potential credit crunch amid slower lending activity at banks as well as a series of bank failures in the first few months of 2023. Additionally, it must contend with the current debt ceiling crisis, in which the White House and Congress haven’t agreed yet on a cap for the amount of money the U.S. government can borrow to meet its financial obligations.

New York Fed President John Williams said earlier this month that he’ll be watching how the banking sector’s troubles affect the U.S. economy, and steered away from reducing interest rates this year.

“I do not see in my baseline forecast any reason to cut interest rates this year,” Williams said, according to Bloomberg.

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