Fed’s Harker Says He Is Ready To Downshift To 25-basis-point Rate Hikes

By Michael S. Derby

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Patrick Harker reiterated on Wednesday that he is ready for the U.S. central bank to move to a slower pace of interest rate rises amid some signs that hot inflation is cooling.

“High inflation is a scourge, leading to economic inefficiencies and hurting Americans of limited means disproportionately,” Harker said in a speech that closely followed remarks from earlier in the month. To get inflation under control, the Fed’s “goal is to slow the economy modestly and to bring demand more in line with supply,” he told a group in Newark, Delaware.

To get there, Harker, who will hold a voting role on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year, is ready to raise the central bank’s benchmark overnight interest rate beyond the current 4.25%-4.50% range.

“I expect that we will raise rates a few more times this year, though, to my mind, the days of us raising them 75 basis points at a time have surely passed,” Harker said in reference to the supercharged rate hiking cycle embraced by the Fed last year.

“Hikes of 25 basis points will be appropriate going forward,” and at some point this year Fed policy will be at a level that will restrain activity to help lower inflation back toward its 2% target, he added.

Harker said he is expecting the Fed to get rates over 5% and added that uncertainty about the stopping point is why the central bank should slow the pace of its rate hikes.

“Let’s get above 5% and sit there for a while” and see how the economy performs, Harker said, noting he does not see a need to push monetary policy to levels that would heavily weigh on activity. At the Fed’s last meeting, officials penciled in a 5.1% stopping point for rate rises this year.

Harker also said that it will be some time before the central bank will be able to lower rates, while adding that the decision will be driven by the economic data then in hand.

The bank president said that there remain upside risks to inflation and that he still sees a long road to getting price pressures back to desired levels. But he noted, “we are starting to see inflation come down across a spectrum of goods,” and core inflation should ease to 3.5% this year and to 2.5% next year and get back to the target in 2025, he said.

Harker said the U.S. economy should grow 1% this year, adding that he doesn’t believe it will fall into a recession. Harker also expects the U.S. unemployment rate, currently at 3.5%, will rise to 4.5% this year before falling back to 4% in following years.

(Reporting by Michael S. Derby; Editing by Paul Simao and Bradley Perrett)