Bonds

Fed’s Harker favors rates above 5%, says odds of soft landing grow

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said the odds of the Federal Reserve being able to control inflation without triggering a recession are growing, but that the key interest rate must get above 5% and stay there to ensure price pressures ease.

“We actually are increasing the odds — we can get a soft landing. That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods,” Harker said in an interview on Wharton Business Radio Friday. “It’s still possible, but I think we can avoid that by just being prudent.”

He said he favors “a couple more” 25 basis-point increases to get the key rate above 5% and hold it there.

“We just can take our time. See how things work out again, if the inflation numbers continue in the trajectory they’re on right now, which would be great,” he said.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said this week that further rate hikes would be needed to quash inflation. Investors have lifted where they see rates peaking this year and are now largely in line with policy makers’ projection following the much stronger-than-expected January employment report. 

Fed officials lifted their benchmark interest rate by a quarter percentage point to a range of 4.5% to 4.75% last week. The smaller move followed a half-point increase in December and four 75 basis-point hikes prior to that.

Officials in December forecast rates peaking at 5.1% this year, according to their median projection. They will update those estimates next month.

US central bankers are battling to ease inflation to their 2% target — prices climbed 5% in the 12 months through December, according to the Fed’s preferred measure, the personal consumption expenditures index.

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