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Fed’s Bostic says open to earlier rate cuts on faster drop in inflation

(Reuters) – Atlanta Federal Reserve President Raphael Bostic said on Thursday he was open to reducing U.S. interest rates sooner than he had anticipated if there is “convincing” evidence in coming months that inflation is falling faster than he expected.

Bostic had previously said he expected it would be appropriate to cut the U.S. central bank’s benchmark overnight interest rate in the second half of this year, but he said on Thursday that “if we continue to see a further accumulation of downside surprises in the data it’s possible for me to get comfortable to advocate normalization sooner than the third quarter. But the evidence would need to be convincing.”

Bostic, in remarks prepared for delivery at an event sponsored by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, added, however, that the overall situation faced by the Fed “argues for caution.”

“Premature rate cuts could unleash a surge in demand that could initiate upward pressure on prices,” he said. “We don’t want to undermine the great progress we have made to date bringing inflation back to target.”

Bostic said he expects the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation – the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index – to fall to 2.4% this year, still above the central bank’s 2% target, with forecasts clouded by a still inordinate amount of uncertainty. The PCE reading came in at 2.6% in November.

Risks include global conflicts that Bostic said could again tangle supply chains and spark higher inflation, as well as domestic risks from federal budget fights and elections.

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