Fed’s Powell points to further gradual rate increases

Fed’s Powell points to further gradual rate increases

Fed’s Powell points to further gradual rate increases

The Federal Reserve will likely need to keep raising interest rates to keep inflation under control, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said in a speech on the economic outlook that did not address the economic risks of rising trade tensions.

In his first speech on the economic outlook since assuming the helm at the U.S. central bank on Feb. 5, Powell said on April 6 the labor market appeared close to full employment and that inflation was poised to rebound in the coming months.

“As long as the economy continues broadly on its current path, further gradual increases in the federal funds rate will best promote these goals,” Powell said at an event in Chicago.

Powell said the risks to the U.S. economic outlook appeared “roughly balanced.”

In his speech, he made no mention of rising trade tensions between Washington and Beijing in which each government is threatening to hike tariffs on tens of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

The Fed has been slowly raising rates since 2015, most recently in March when policymakers signaled they expected to increase borrowing costs two more times in 2018. Prices for interest rate futures have suggested that investors expect the Fed will do just that.

Powell’s comments on April 6 bolstered that view. He said there were many signs that the job market was nearly at full strength and only a few indicators pointed to weakness.

“I will be looking for an additional pickup in wage growth as the labor market strengthens further,” Powell said.

He said Fed policymakers discussed inflation “thoroughly” in January and that he believed inflation will be influenced by the labor market over time, meaning that a tight labor market could fuel faster price gains.