Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Esther George said Wednesday the central bank has “more work to do” on interest rate hikes, and said the sharpest impacts from its recent moves have not yet been felt.
“We are trying to get back to 2% inflation as quickly as we can, without doing damage to the economy,” George told Yahoo Finance in an interview on Wednesday at the Jackson Hole economic symposium, which is hosted by the Kansas City Fed.
“So July looked like there was some easing in those price pressures, but certainly not enough that you would say, we’re in the right direction,” George said. “So I think we have more data to see. And I think we have more work to do, to begin to see that trend move down.”
The Fed has delivered interest rate hikes at its last four policy meetings in an effort to quell inflation, which surged to a 41-year high in June. And although July inflation data showed prices plateauing between June and July, prices remained 8.5% higher than they were a year ago.
The Fed has raised short-term interest rates to a target range between 2.25% and 2.5%, moving 0.25% in March, 0.50% in May, and 0.75% in both June and July. Currently, markets for future Fed moves are pricing in a 55% chance the Fed raises rates another 0.75% at its policy meeting next month.
George, who has been cautious about the pace of rate hikes, said a challenge in avoiding damage from rate moves is the lagged effect of monetary policy.
When central banks raise interest rates markets often react quickly, but it can take months for those changes to bleed through to the broader economy. For the Fed, which has acknowledged the breakneck pace of inflation, that means that the full brunt of its rapid rate hikes have yet to be seen.
“I don’t think we have seen the effects [of rate hikes] yet,” George said. “But remember, we are operating in an uncertain time… It will be important for us to communicate clearly the path ahead, so that those financial conditions can tighten alongside those rate moves.”
George noted businesses in the region surrounding Kansas City continue to see price pressures and have difficulty hiring people.
“That tells me that the effects of those rate increases have not come through yet and it is likely that we will need to do more before we see that demand begin to cool,” George said.
In June, George dissented against the Fed’s decision to move by 0.75%, preferring a smaller 0.50% move. George’s disagreement was a surprise given her preference in previous rate hiking cycles for earlier rate increases.
“The speed with which we adjust the policy rate is important,” George wrote in a statement following that June decision. In July, George voted in favor of the FOMC’s decision to raise interest rates by 0.75%.
George told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday the Fed’s balance sheet also remains an important policy tool. In May, the Fed unveiled plans to unwind its nearly $9 trillion in asset holdings, mostly accumulated through purchases during the pandemic to signal the central bank’s support to financial markets.
Over the last few months, the Fed has gradually increased the pace at which it allows maturing assets to “roll off” its balance sheet. In September, the pace will top out at an estimated $95 billion a month, which George says will contribute to the Fed’s efforts to dampen economic activity and high inflation.
“As I watch the combination of these rate hikes and the balance sheet coming down, it’s going to be important to see how the economy adjusts to what the Federal Reserve is doing,” George said.
The Fed’s next policy-setting meeting is scheduled for September 20 and 21.
Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the Fed, economics, and banking for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.
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