An increasing number of Federal Reserve officials have recently spooked markets by warning about the economic impact of decades-high inflation and how the central bank will need to aggressively raise interest rates, as well as “rapidly” reduce its balance sheet, to combat surging prices.
Stocks fell on Wednesday, adding to losses this week, after recent comments from Federal Reserve officials added to market uncertainty: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8%, nearly 300 points, while the S&P 500 lost 1.3% and the Nasdaq Composite 2.7%.
A rising number of Fed officials have been publicly warning about surging inflation and how the central bank will need to respond by aggressively raising interest rates and reducing its balance sheet.
Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker was the latest to join the chorus on Wednesday, saying that he is “acutely concerned” about inflation, which is “running far too high.”
His comments follow those of several of his colleagues on Tuesday: Fed Governor Lael Brainard said that bringing down inflation is “of paramount importance” and the central bank will be required to enact “a series of interest rate hikes” as well as a “rapid” reduction of its balance sheet.
That same day, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly similarly expressed concern about inflation, saying it “is as harmful as not having a job,” while also pledging higher rate hikes from the Fed as it looks to combat surging prices.
Markets were particularly spooked by Brainard’s comments on shrinking the balance sheet, as well as the fact that both she and Daly are policy “doves,” who usually favor low interest rates but are nonetheless now calling for a series of rate hikes.
“Currently, inflation is much too high and is subject to upside risks,” Brainard said on Tuesday. The Fed is “prepared to take stronger action” if indicators of inflation grow worse and show that such action is warranted, she added, also predicting that the Fed’s $9 trillion balance sheet will “shrink considerably more rapidly” than the last time it drew down assets between 2017 and 2019.
With inflation at its highest level in 40 years, the Federal Reserve last month raised interest rates, by 0.25%, for the first time since 2018. The central bank currently forecasts six additional rate hikes this year, while also warning about the “highly uncertain” economic impact from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has roiled commodities markets. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, meanwhile, has stressed that the central bank is prepared to raise interest rates “more aggressively” if higher inflation persists.
What To Watch For:
With surging inflation showing no signs of letting up, an increasing number of Wall Street experts are warning about possible stagflation and an upcoming recession. Deutsche Bank became the first major firm on Wall Street to forecast a recession in 2023, predicting the economy will take a “major hit” from the Federal Reserve’s tightening monetary policy. Several former Fed officials are among those who have also sounded the alarm about a looming economic downturn: William Dudley, former president of the New York Fed, predicted last week that a recession is “virtually inevitable.” Former Fed Governor Lawrence Lindsey, meanwhile, said that a downturn could happen as soon as this summer, forecasting that inflation will force consumers to drastically cut back on spending.