john williams: Fed’s Williams says he doesn’t feel urgency to cut rates right now

Estimated read time 10 min read
NEW YORK: Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John Williams said Thursday he does not see any imminent need to cut interest rates.

Given the strength of the economy at the current level of monetary policy, the Fed has time to collect data before changing policy, Williams told a gathering of the Economic Club of New York. “I don’t feel any urgency” to cut rates “in the very near term,” Williams said.

He said the current setting of monetary policy is in the right place to help inflation get back to 2%, in remarks that gave no hints of when he thinks the central bank might be able to cut the cost of short-term borrowing.

“The behavior of the economy over the past year provides ample evidence that monetary policy is restrictive in a way that helps us achieve our goals,” Williams said in the text of a speech prepared for delivery before a gathering of the Economic Club of New York.

“I see the current stance of monetary policy as being well positioned to continue the progress we’ve made toward achieving our objectives,” Williams said. He added Fed policy makers “will continue to keep an eye on the totality of the data, so that we make policy decisions that ensure that we get inflation sustainably back to 2 percent while maintaining a strong labor market.” Williams, who also serves as vice-chairman of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee, weighed in as the Fed is swiftly approaching its next monetary policy meeting set for June 11-12. His comments largely echoed those made in a recent StuffsEarth interview. At the meeting officials are widely expected to maintain their overnight interest rate target range at between 5.25% and 5.5%. They’re also scheduled to update their forecasts on the economy and monetary policy. At the March meeting officials continued to pencil in three rate cuts this year. They’re widely expected to dial back that forecast next month given the unexpected sturdiness of inflation over the start of the year. Fed officials have backed away from talking about the prospect of rate cuts this year and traders and investors have pushed back the possible start date of cuts to later in the year. In his remarks, Williams said inflation remains too high and its performance over the start of the year has been disappointing. But he expects to see price pressures ease further over the second half of the year amid a better balancing of the economy.

Williams said he expects price pressures to ease to around 2.5% this year from the 2.7% year-over-year rise seen in March’s personal consumption expenditures price index. Williams said inflation will be “closer” to 2% next year.

Williams said the job market remains tight and wage gains are still too high to be consistent with 2% inflation. Against the current 3.9% jobless rate he sees unemployment rising to 4% this year.

The central banker also said in his remarks that the economy should grow by 2% to 2.5% this year. (Reporting by Michael S. Derby)

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