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Fed Chair Powell Hints at Rate Hikes In Congress Testimony

Jerome Powell, Federal Reserve Chairman, is set to deliver crucial testimony regarding the Monetary Policy Report at a hearing in Washington DC. His hawkish remarks could provide optimistic indications of monetary strength which may benefit the value of the U.S dollar currency.

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Meanwhile, keep an eye on the following events happening today and which could impact the currency;

The US Automatic Data Processing, Inc. which measures an Estimated change in the number of employed people during the previous month, excluding the farming industry and government. A higher Actual and Forecast is good for the currency.

Bank of Canada’s Rate Statement and Overnight Rate release whose hawkish stance could spell good news for the currency.

Historic Appearance

This week, Jerome Powell makes a historic return to Capitol Hill with the Federal Reserve having taken decisive action since his last appearance in June 2022. The rapid increase of inflation at that time had culminated in four decades’ highest level of nearly 9%, yet through significant rate hikes it has now receded for seven consecutive months.

Even just a month ago, things had seemed to be headed in the right direction economic cooling and inflation steadily declining. But recent reports tell another story; consumer spending is still going strong, hiring remains healthy, and the economy isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. 

Inflation Continues To Bite

Most notably though? Inflation pressures are being felt more slowly than expected  making Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s task that much harder as he navigates these tricky financial waters!

At last month’s news conference, Fed Chair Powell heralded the dawn of a new era one in which inflationary pressures were finally subsiding. 

Though only in its initial stages, the disinflation is expected to deliver long-term economic benefits and has been supported by colleagues on the Federal Reserve Board.

Despite gradual economic progress, Mary Daly of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco asserted that a continued push for disinflation is necessary. 

She indicated higher rates may be sustained in order to realize further improvements in inflation levels.

Resilient Sectors

In spite of the hit taken by the housing industry due to climbing interest costs, most sectors of the economy have remained resilient in light of aggressive rate hikes from The Federal Reserve. 

Many economists believe that higher rates will be necessary for inflation control and growth more than initially thought at the end of 2018. Recent developments suggest a stronger-than-expected economic performance compared with earlier estimates.

Walking A Tightrope

The Federal Reserve’s upcoming decisions will be a tightrope walk as Chairman Jerome Powell attempts to reconcile the conflicting desires of Congress. 

Analysts predict that rates could see three quarter-point increases at successive meetings, with further hikes beyond those possibly on the horizon. 

Such moves by the Fed can make borrowing more expensive and put downward pressure on spending and inflation  meaning an economic dip might not be far off unless Powell navigates his way carefully through Capitol Hill this week.

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Warding Off Recession

The indicators of economic resilience have been met with a mixed bag; while relieved to see the evidence against an impending recession, worries that inflation could take over loom large. 

Last week Fed officials suggested their benchmark rate might need to go higher than expected for 2021 Christopher Waller from the Board of Governors even estimated it should reach 5.4%. 

An increase in rates has potentially serious implications as labor markets are already looking tight and businesses vulnerable if not managed carefully this delicate balance risks toppling into recession territory.

Despite the Fed’s goal of keeping unemployment from rising too severely, it has become clear that some job losses will occur in order to curb inflation. 

This push back is understandable given Democrats’ argument that current price increases are a result of strong global forces beyond the control of central banks and shameless profiteering by large businesses. 

Nonetheless, with their semi-annual report released last Friday finally clarifying these measures, this could lead us into an epoch where employment sees minor gradual worsening but hoped for economic contraction on prices becomes more achievable than ever before.

Inflation A Big Concern 

Republicans in Congress are concerned that the Federal Reserve needs to take more drastic steps to prevent inflation. Last week, Jason Furman suggested a big move: raising rates by half-a-point this month and forecasting 6% as their benchmark rate for 2021. 

These suggestions could be key indicators of how much power the Fed has over financial markets this year.

With the economy facing tumultuous times, Congressional Democrats are imploring for a change in policy to aid their constituents. They suggest increasing inflation targets from 2% to 3%, arguing that it shouldn’t result in an economic downturn and any potential risk is worth taking into account. 

In response, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has expressed concern about this measure eroding confidence around its ability to combat rising prices. 

Previously, Philip Jefferson who has said raising the target could open up questions of opportunistic adjustments down the line.

At the upcoming congressional hearing, Democrats will be pushing Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to discuss what might happen if Congress is unable or unwilling to raise the country’s borrowing limit. 

With no room for additional debt since January and Republican legislators calling for budget cuts in exchange for an increase, a careful balance must be struck between fiscal stability and necessary spending. 

Notably, such decisions could have long-term implications on the country’s financial future.

Job Losses Predictions

Although economists are expecting inflation to settle at a lower rate of 3.5%-4%, reaching the Fed’s target level of 2% could come with an unfortunate cost of severe job losses across the nation.

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  • Phyllis Wangui

    Phyllis Wangui is a Financial Analyst and News Editor with qualifications in accounting and economics. She has over 20 years of banking and accounting experience, during which she has gained extensive knowledge of the forex, stock news, stock market, forex analysis, cryptos and foreign exchange industries. Phyllis is an avid commentator on these topics and loves to share her insights with others through financial publications and social media platforms.

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