Fed Faces Tough Choice: Balance Inflation and Financial Stability

The Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation has become more complex in light of recent banking sector turmoil.[0] On Tuesday, the Labor Department reported that the Consumer Price Index rose 0.4% in February, bringing the annual inflation rate to 6%.[1] Core inflation, which strips out food and energy costs, rose 0.5% from month to month, the fastest pace since late 2022.[2] While the CPI rate has been decreasing since September 2021, the cost of food at home is up 10.2%, electricity is up 12.9%, and shelter is up 8.1%.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell warned Congress last week that there is still a “long way to go” in reducing inflation, suggesting that officials will continue to raise interest rates in the coming months.[3] Before the SVB Bank collapse on Friday, the consensus was that the Fed would raise the benchmark rate by at least a quarter percentage point at their next meeting.[4] Now, analysts at Goldman Sachs and Nomura are predicting that the Fed will not increase rates this month.[5]

The decision to keep raising interest rates could slow down inflation and bring it back to its target range of 2%.[6] The action may lead to a recession in the nation.[7] For this reason, the Fed will need to weigh the instability in the banking system when they gather to decide on interest rates.[8]

Noah Yosif, an economist at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, believes that the Fed will prioritize financial stability over inflation and enact a quarter-point hike while extending the timeline of its overall tightening cycle. Jeffrey Roach, chief U.S. economist at LPL Financial, agrees, saying that the Fed will likely prioritize price stability over growth and hike rates by 0.25%.

Inflation remains an issue for the U.S. economy, and the Federal Reserve must carefully decide how to proceed in order to maintain financial stability and bring prices back to normal levels.[6]

0. “Inflation fell for the eighth-straight month in February” CNN, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/14/economy/cpi-inflation-february/index.html

1. “Wholesale prices post unexpected decline of 0.1% in February; retail sales fall” CNBC, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.cnbc.com/2023/03/15/ppi-february-2023-.html

2. “Inflation is proving sticky, CPI report confirms” Axios, 15 Mar. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/03/14/the-sticky-inflation-conundrum

3. “US inflation slows to 6% annual rate amid looming banking crisis” The Guardian, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2023/mar/14/us-inflation-slows-banking-crisis

4. “Food Inflation Slowed in February. It’s Still Not a Relief for Consumers.” Barron’s, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.barrons.com/articles/food-egg-prices-inflation-grocery-5567b4be

5. “Inflation Fell To 6% In February—But Some Experts Fear Banking Crisis Could Make Prices Worse” Forbes, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanponciano/2023/03/14/inflation-fell-to-6-in-february-but-some-experts-fear-banking-crisis-could-make-prices-worse

6. “February CPI Report: What the Experts Are Saying About Inflation” Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.kiplinger.com/cpi-report-inflation-fed-rate-hikes-prices

7. “Inflation cools but interest rate and recession fears remain” Fox Business, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/inflation-cpi-increases-february-2023

8. “The collapse of 2 lenders just made the Fed’s inflation fight harder” NPR, 14 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/14/1163129029/the-fed-already-had-a-tough-inflation-fight-now-it-must-deal-with-banks-collapsi