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IPFS News Link • Inflation

Rate Cuts Are Coming, Ready or Not

• by Joseph Solis-Mullen

According to the Fed's "preferred" inflation measure, the Personal Consumption Expenditures Index (PCE)—you know, the one that excepts those extraneous things you never buy, things like food and gas—well, according to recent PCE readings the Fed has been doing a terrific job, justifying the formal shifting of its interest rate outlook. That is, while not promising to cut rates it is in effect laying the necessary groundwork, providing itself the flexibility to do so if, in its words, "the risks to achieving its employment and inflation goals [continue] moving into better balance."

For context, at its most recent meeting on Wednesday Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell announced rates would be remaining between the range of 5.25% and 5.5%. With PCE and CPI readings both remaining above the long-term target rate of 2%, at 2.6% and 3.4% respectively, this seemed prudent to say the least. However, parsing the nuances of Fed Speak, the shift from hawkish talk six months ago of possible "additional policy firming," i.e. higher interest rates for longer, to the more neutral/dovish language of "In considering any adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate…the Committee does not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range until it has gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent," makes the multiple December predictions by officials of multiple rate cuts by the end of the year look increasingly likely to come true.

And, really, the government needs rates cut as soon as possible.

First, while Janet Yellen was busy lecturing everyone about equality and climate change after taking the top job at Treasury, she neglected to refinance several trillion dollars of short term debt. Because, you know, nothing says a decade-plus in the government like dropping the most basic of balls, failing to lock in rock bottom interest rates and costing taxpayers hundreds of billions issuing short term securities if the Fed doesn't prove willing to simply hold onto those bonds for Treasury—something it is far from clear Powell, or his successor, will choose to do.