Fed’s Bostic expresses caution about the pace of interest rate hikes
Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic on Tuesday expressed concern about the impact that rate hikes could have on the U.S. economic recovery, saying the central bank shouldn’t move so fast that it chokes off growth.
Bostic did not commit in a CNBC interview to what pace the Fed should take in increasing benchmark rates. Instead, he said policymakers should be measured in their approach and watch how what they do impacts conditions.
“I think I’m in the same areas as my colleagues philosophically,” he told CNBC’s Sara Eisen in a “Closing Bell” interview. “I think it’s really important that we get to neutral and do that in an expeditious way.”
“Neutral” is considered the rate at which the economy is running on its own with rates that are neither boosting nor restricting growth. Bostic said that neutral rate could be between 2% and 2.5% and the funds rate could be as low as 1.75% by the end of 2022. That puts him near the median of the Fed’s “dot plot” of individual members’ projections released each quarter.
“I really have us looking at one and three-quarters by the end of the year, but it could be slower depending on how the economy evolves and we do see greater weakening than I’m seeing in my baseline model,” he said. “This is one reason why I’m reluctant to really declare that we want to go a long way beyond our neutral place, because that may be more hikes than are warranted given sort of the economic environment.”
That puts him in contrast with some of the other Federal Open Market Committee members.
On Monday, St. Louis President James Bullard said he sees the fed funds rate, which serves as a benchmark for many consumer debt instruments, rising to 3.5%. He said the Fed needs to go beyond neutral if it has hopes of taming inflation running at its fastest pace in more than 40 years.
But Bostic said the Fed “needs to be cautious as we move forward.” Inflation could be topping, he said, though he noted that real incomes adjusted for the cost of living have been falling.
“We do need to get away from zero, I think zero is lower than we should be right now,” he said. “But at the same time, we need to just pay attention.”
Market pricing is for rate hikes that would bring the funds rate to 2.5% and the Fed ultimately hiking to around 3.2% before cutting rates in late 2024.
The Atlanta Fed is tracking GDP growth in the first quarter of just 1.3%, though Bostic said he expects the annual pace in 2022 to be around 3%.
“My goal is to have there not be a recession while I sit in this chair, and I’m just going to do all I can to make that be true,” he said.
Correction: Bostic said the neutral rate of interest is between 2-2.5% and the fed funds rate could be as low as 1.75%. An earlier version misstated his position on the neutral rate.