Fed’s Goolsbee Says More Data Needed to Determine Next Interest Rate Move

Fed’s Goolsbee Says More Data Needed to Determine Next Interest Rate Move

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(Bloomberg) — Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Austan Goolsbee said it’s too soon to say whether policymakers should raise rates or hold them steady in July, but said inflation remains well above target and has proved more persistent than expected.

While some measures of inflation have improved, other categories aren’t coming down as quickly as anticipated, he said.

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“The thing that everybody should put their eye on in the immediate term is, are goods prices, inflation, is it too high for one-off reasons — like used cars were especially high but that’s going to go away — or is there something more persistent?” Goolsbee said Friday in an interview on Fox Business. “That’s the key.”

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Policymakers held interest rates in a rage of 5% to 5.25% at their June 13-14 meeting, pausing their rate-hike campaign after 10 consecutive increases over the past 15 months. At the same meeting, officials lifted their projections for how much more tightening may be in the pipeline this year and now expect two further increases.

The Fed is trying to further cool inflation, which has come down from a peak last year but remains far from the central bank’s 2% goal, but also allow time for its aggressive policy to work through the economy. It is also assessing how much recent banking turmoil will impact credit conditions.

Goolsbee, a voter on this year’s policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee, had earlier this year expressed concern about the extent to which a lending pullback could weigh on the economy.

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But last week the Chicago Fed chief, one of the most dovish policymakers, said the Fed’s decision to forgo a hike in June was a “close call” for him.

Goods Inflation

Goolsbee said he hadn’t yet made up his mind about what officials ought to do at their July 25-26 gathering. 

“We’re going to get a lot of data over the several weeks before the next meeting,” he said. “I just think we’ve got to watch that and think it through.”

While the headline reading of the personal consumption expenditures index — the Fed’s preferred gauge for price changes — declined in May, some measures of underlying inflation suggest progress may be stalling. Goods prices minus energy and food, the part of the index that had been declining steadily, ticked up 3.2% in May on a three-month annualized basis, from a 2.1% pace in April.

Read More: US Inflation Cools, Spending Stagnates as Economy Loses Steam

Prices for used vehicles, a sizable component of core-goods inflation, have moved up sharply in the past two months after cooling in the nine months through March. But without that, core-goods inflation was flat on a month-over-month basis in April and May, according to Omair Sharif, the president and founder of Inflation Insights LLC.

—With assistance from Matthew Boesler and Reade Pickert.

(Updates with additional context on inflation data in 10th paragraph.)

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