Fed Chair Says Central Bank Need Not ‘Hurry’ to Cut Rates

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said on Friday that resilient economic growth is giving the central bank the flexibility to be patient before cutting interest rates.

Fed officials raised interest rates sharply from early 2022 to mid-2023, and they have left them at about 5.3 percent since last July. That relatively high level essentially taps the brakes on the economy, in part by making it expensive to borrow to buy a house or start a business. The goal is to keep rates high enough, for long enough, to wrestle inflation back under control.

But price increases have cooled notably in recent months — inflation ran at 2.5 percent in February, a report on Friday showed, far below its 7.1 percent peak in 2022 for that gauge and just slightly above the Fed’s 2 percent goal. Given that slowdown, officials have been considering when and how much they can cut interest rates this year.

While investors were initially hopeful that rate cuts would come early in the year and be substantial, Fed officials have recently struck a cautious tone, maintaining that they want greater confidence that inflation was under control. Mr. Powell reiterated that message on Friday.

“We can, and we will be, careful about this decision — because we can be,” Mr. Powell said, speaking in a question-and-answer session with the “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal in San Francisco. “The economy is strong: We see very strong growth.”

Friday’s Personal Consumption Expenditures report showed that consumers are still spending at a rapid clip. Recent hiring data has also remained solid. In all, the economy seems to be holding up even with the Fed’s high interest rates.

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