Nov 30, 2021 - Economy

Fed signals it could yank economic support quicker as inflation sticks around

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell testifies during a hearing before Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve will consider pulling back economic support sooner "as the threat of persistently high inflation has grown," chair Jerome Powell said during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

Why it matters: This is the biggest signal yet the Fed is backing away from its stance that soaring prices would be fleeting — a change that could shift its policies that underpin the economy.

Catch up quick: Up until now, Powell has taken a hard line that elevated inflation would be "transitory" — a word that should now be retired, Powell said on Tuesday.

  • "The word 'transitory' has different meanings to different people. We tend to use it to mean that it won't leave a permanent mark in the form of higher inflation," Powell said, noting "transitory" should be swapped for more specific language.

What they're saying: Powell signaled the Fed at its next meeting would consider accelerating the winddown of the gargantuan bond purchases supporting the recovery — something critics warn are contributing to overheating the economy.

  • "At this point, the economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are high and it is therefore appropriate, in my view, to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases ... perhaps a few months sooner," Powell said.
  • The Fed announced it would steadily slow ("taper") bond buying earlier this month at a pace that would end the program by the middle of next year.

What's next: The Fed's next two-day policy meeting wraps up on Dec. 15.

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