Federal Reserve Chair Pledges to Bring Inflation Under Control

on Mar4
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Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, told senators on Thursday that policymakers were prepared to rein in inflation as they tried to fulfill their price stability goal — even if that came at an economic cost.

“We’re going to use our tools, and we’re going to get this done,” Mr. Powell told the Senate Banking Committee.

Mr. Powell has signaled that the Fed is poised to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point at its meeting that ends March 16, and follow up with additional rate increases over the next several months. Fed officials are also planning to come up with a strategy for shrinking their vast holdings of government-backed debt, which will increase longer-term interest rates.

The suite of policy changes will be an effort to weigh on demand, tamping down price increases that are running at their fastest pace in 40 years. The Fed aims for 2 percent price gains on average over time, but inflation came in at 6.1 percent in the year through January.

The goal is to allow factories and businesses to catch up so shoppers are no longer competing for a limited stock of goods and services, creating shortages that enable companies to raise prices without scaring voracious buyers away.

“What we hope to achieve is bringing the economy to a level where supply and demand are in sync,” Mr. Powell said.

Asked whether the nation might be on the cusp of a wage-price spiral, in which wages and inflation feed on each other, Mr. Powell struck a cautious tone.

“That is a serious concern, and one that we monitor carefully,” he said. He noted that wage increases had been very quick — especially for lower-paid workers — and that whether they became problematic would depend on how persistent they proved to be.

“The big thing we don’t want is to have inflation become entrenched and self-perpetuating,” he said. “That’s why we’re moving ahead with our program to raise interest rates and get inflation under control.”

Mr. Powell underlined that the Fed’s plans for policy would be “nimble” in response to uncertainty coming from Ukraine. Economists have said the conflict is likely to push up gas and other commodity prices, further elevating inflation — already, oil prices have shot higher. But at the same time, a combination of higher fuel costs and wavering consumer sentiment could be a drag on economic growth.

But Mr. Powell made clear, repeatedly, that getting price gains back in line was key.

“We need to deliver price stability; we’re not currently doing that,” he later added, calling the central bank “very highly motivated to get the economy back to a place where we have inflation under control, but also a strong economy and a strong labor market.”

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