U.S. Fed minutes show risks around inflation forecast tilted slightly to "upside"

U.S. Fed minutes show risks around inflation forecast tilted slightly to "upside"
# 11 April 2024 08:25 (UTC +04:00)

U.S. Federal Reserve officials say that recent data has not increased their confidence that inflation is moving sustainably down to 2 percent, noting that risks around the inflation forecast are seen as tilted slightly to the "upside," according to minutes of the Fed's latest meeting released Wednesday, APA reports.

On its March 19-20 policy meeting, the Fed left interest rates unchanged at a 22-year high of 5.25-5.5 percent as recent consumer data indicated continued inflation pressures.

Participants generally noted their "uncertainty about the persistence of high inflation" and expressed the view that recent data had not increased their confidence that inflation was moving sustainably down to the central bank's long-term target, the minutes showed.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Wednesday that the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) in March sped up to 3.5 percent from a year ago, after ticking up to 3.2 percent in February, indicating continued inflation pressure.

The Fed minutes noted that risks around the inflation forecast were seen as tilted slightly to the upside, as supply-side disruptions -- from developments domestically or abroad -- or unexpectedly persistent inflation dynamics could materialize.

Some participants pointed to geopolitical risks that might result in more severe supply bottlenecks or higher shipping costs that could put upward pressure on prices, and observed that those developments could also weigh on economic growth.

Total and core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price inflation -- the Fed's preferred inflation gauge -- were both projected to edge down in 2024, ending the year around 2.5 percent, as demand and supply in product and labor markets continued to move into better balance, the Fed minutes showed.

By 2026, total and core PCE price inflation were expected to be close to 2 percent.

The risks around the forecast for economic activity were viewed as skewed a little to the "downside," as any substantial setback in reducing inflation might lead to a tightening of financial conditions that would slow the pace of economic activity by more than the staff anticipated in their baseline forecast, the minutes showed.

Participants expected that economic growth would slow from last year's strong pace. With regard to the household sector, they noted that consumption spending generally remained solid, although many commented that recent readings on retail sales had been soft.

Many participants pointed to indicators such as higher credit card balances, greater use of buy-now-pay-later programs, or rising delinquency rates on some types of consumer loans as evidence that the finances of some lower and moderate-income households might be coming under pressure; these developments were seen by these participants as a downside risk to the outlook for consumption spending.