Jan 14, 2021 - Economy

Fed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell before a congressional hearing in December

Fed chair Jerome Powell ahead of a congressional hearing in December. (Photo via Getty Images)

Interest rates will stay near zero for the foreseeable future, Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said on Thursday.

Why it matters: It staves off concerns that the central bank is eyeing pulling back on its easy money policy if the economy recovers faster than anticipated.

What he's saying: "When the time comes to raise interest rates, we will certainly do that. That time by the way is no time soon," he said during an event with Princeton University.

Powell also said "now is not the time" to talk about any exit from the $120 billion in securities that Fed has been buying every month.

The big picture: Powell weighed in on the prospect of higher inflation — some investors are bracing for it — which would force the Fed to consider hiking rates to counteract rising prices.

  • "As the pandemic recedes and we see potentially a strong wave of spending as people return to their normal lives and begin consuming various services," that might cause upward pressure on prices, Powell said.
  • "But the real question is how large is that effect and will it be persistent," Powell said, noting that it's unlikely to be persistent.

Catch up quick: The Fed rolled out a new policy framework last summer that sought to make up for the fact that inflation for years has undershot its 2% target — but hasn't laid out specifics, like how long it would like to see inflation above that level.

  • "We haven't tied ourselves — and won't — to a particular mathematical formula when we aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2% for some time," Powell said.
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