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Fed Officials Urge Patience on Rate Cuts, Offer Hints on Timing

A chorus of Federal Reserve officials on Tuesday emphasized the need for more evidence of cooling inflation before lowering interest rates, with a couple policymakers offering insight into the potential timing of such a move.

Fed Governor Adriana Kugler said it will likely be appropriate for the central bank to cut rates “sometime later this year” if economic conditions unfold as she anticipates. St. Louis Fed President Alberto Musalem said in his first major policy speech that it could take “quarters” for the data to support a cut.

Both New York’s John Williams and Richmond’s Thomas Barkin demurred from offering a specific time frame for the timing of a rate reduction, but all officials underscored the important role of economic data in the path of policy moving forward.

Policymakers have held borrowing costs at a two-decade high for nearly a year now, and they appear in no rush to lower them. Just last week Fed officials penciled in just one rate reduction for 2024, down from the three projected in March, according to the median forecast.

Inflation snapped back in the first quarter of this year, surprising Fed officials after a rapid cooling in price pressures in the second half of 2023. While recent price data has been encouraging, policymakers remain cautious. Boston Fed President Susan Collins reiterated that point Tuesday, saying it’s important not to “overreact to a month or two of promising news.”

When asked during a Yahoo Finance interview later in the day whether she is looking at one or two rate cuts this year given where things are now, Collins said, “I could imagine scenarios that would be consistent with both.”

She added, “as I look forward, my view of how much easing might be appropriate this year has been reduced as I look at the data.”

Policymakers’ cautious approach was particularly clear in the quarterly projections released last week, where four officials forecast no cuts in 2024.

“I will need to observe a period of favorable inflation, moderating demand and expanding supply before becoming confident that a reduction in the target range for the federal funds rate is appropriate,” Musalem said. “These conditions could take months, and more likely quarters to play out.”

A string of recent economic reports have shown mixed news for the economy, with consumers tempering spending despite strong employment growth, and inflation cooling after a surprising acceleration in the first quarter. US retail sales barely rose in May and prior months were revised lower, according to data published Tuesday, while payrolls surged 272,000 in the month.

“I believe the current stance of monetary policy is sufficiently restrictive to help cool the economy and bring inflation back toward 2% without a sharp contraction in economic activity or a significant deterioration of the labor market,” Kugler said.

— With assistance from Steve Matthews, Amara Omeokwe, Will Kubzansky, Catarina Saraiva, Craig Torres, Christopher Condon, and Laura Curtis

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