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Powell: Fed committed to inflation fight, but not trying to trigger recession

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell faces reporters after the Federal Reserve raised its target interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to stem a disruptive surge in inflation, during a news conference following a t

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By Ann Saphir and Lindsay (NYSE:LNN) Dunsmuir

(Reuters) -The Federal Reserve is not trying to engineer a recession to stop inflation but is fully committed to bringing prices under control even if doing so risks an economic downturn, U.S. central bank chief Jerome Powell said on Wednesday.

“We are not trying to provoke, and I don’t think we will need to provoke, a recession,” Powell said at a hearing before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, although he acknowledged that a recession was “certainly a possibility” and events in the last few months around the world had made it more difficult to reduce inflation without causing one.

“It is essential that we bring inflation down if we are to have a sustained period of strong labor market conditions that benefit all,” Powell said, adding that the Fed in coming months will be looking for “compelling evidence” of slowing price pressures before it eases up on the interest rate increases it kicked off three months ago.

Inflation continues to run well above the Fed’s targeted level of 2%. A gauge of price increases that excludes volatile food and energy costs may have flattened out or eased somewhat last month, Powell testified, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and COVID-19 lockdowns in China are putting continued upward pressure on inflation.

One week ago, the Fed raised its benchmark overnight interest rate by three-quarters of a percentage point – its biggest hike since 1994 – to a range of 1.50% to 1.75%, and signaled rates would rise another 1.75 percentage points this year.

That steep rate hike path, designed to slow the economy, has sparked widespread concern about a recession and a weakening of labor markets.

On Wednesday, Powell reiterated that ongoing increases in the Fed’s policy rate would be appropriate, with the exact pace dependent on the economic outlook, and he declined to rule out a 100-basis-point move if it proved warranted.

“Inflation has obviously surprised to the upside over the past year, and further surprises could be in store,” he said, repeating that policymakers would need to be nimble in response to the incoming data.

‘COUGHING UP BONES’

Since the June 14-15 policy meeting, a number of Powell’s fellow policymakers have lined up behind his comments last week that the central bank will very likely need to raise rates by either 50 or 75 basis points at its next meeting in July.

Earlier on Wednesday, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said incoming data would govern which of the two options to deliver. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans signaled later on Wednesday that he also is comfortable for now with continued rapid rate hikes.

But in an indication of how inflation has emerged as a thorny political issue that threatens to tip the balance of power in Congress to Republicans in elections this November, Powell found himself under fire from both the left and right.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat representing Massachusetts, took the Fed to task for pushing through rate hikes that raised the risk of a recession that could put millions out of work.

Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, in one of the more heated criticisms of the Fed’s response to inflation, said inflation was hitting his constituents “so hard they are coughing up bones.”

The median projection among Fed policymakers released last week showed they expect the target rate to rise to 3.4% by the end of the year.

Overall, Powell did not stray far from his remarks in his news conference that followed the end of the Fed’s latest policy meeting, but his assertion that financial conditions had “tightened significantly” seems significant and may herald a slower pace of rate hikes ahead, Karim Basta, chief economist at III Capital Management, wrote in a note.

Interest rate futures ticked higher through the course of Powell’s appearance, moderating some of the expectations for additional big rate increases at the Fed’s remaining four policy meetings of the year.

While another 75-basis-point increase in July remains seen as the most likely outcome, according to CME Group’s (NASDAQ:CME) FedWatch tool, rate futures now signal that the Fed will dial that back to a half-percentage-point rise in September. For year’s end, it was increasingly seen as a toss-up between a policy rate in either a range of 3.25% to 3.50% or 3.50% to 3.75%.

Economists polled by Reuters before the appearance see the Fed delivering another 75-basis-point interest rate hike in July, followed by a half-percentage-point rise in September, with no scaling back to quarter-percentage-point moves until November at the earliest.

Fed officials’ latest projections see economic growth slowing to below trend this year while the U.S. unemployment rate – currently 3.6% – starts to tick higher. Meanwhile, they have materially tempered their expectation for how quickly inflation will subside, with a median forecast for a year-end annual rate easing to 5.2% by their preferred measure from 6.3% as of April. In March, they had put that figure at 4.3%.

Economy

Futures rise as easing China COVID curbs lift travel, leisure stocks

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© Reuters. A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., June 22, 2022. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – Travel and leisure shares propped up U.S. stock index futures after China relaxed some COVID-19 quarantine requirements for international travelers, raising hopes of a revival in global growth.

Airlines, cruises, casinos and hotels were among the gainers in premarket trading after China’s slashing of the quarantine time for inbound travelers by half boosted hopes of a big jump in international travel and spending.

Shares of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS) Inc rose 2.5% to top the list of gainers on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after the company’s Shanghai Disney Resort said it would reopen the Disneyland theme park on June 30 after being shut for more than three months.

Spirit Airlines (NYSE:SAVE) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) Group Inc were the biggest gainers in the sector, rising 4% and 2% respectively.

Melco Resorts jumped 10% and led the rise in the casino sector, closely followed by Wynn Resorts (NASDAQ:WYNN), MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) International.

Wall Street’s main indexes started the week on soft footing after worries of surging inflation and an aggressive Federal Reserve dominated sentiment amid few market moving catalysts till the start of earnings season in two weeks.

Investors are now looking at data to determine whether the economy can withstand large interest rate hikes by the U.S. central bank to stamp out inflation.

A survey from the Conference Board is expected to show its consumer confidence index slipped to a reading of 100.4 in June, from 106.4 in May, at 10 a.m. ET.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are set to post losses in June and are on course to log two straight quarterly declines for the first time since 2015.

At 6:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 175 points, or 0.56%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 20 points, or 0.51%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 52.25 points, or 0.43%.

Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) shed 2.8% as it forecast first-quarter revenue below estimates on expectations of more discounts and pandemic-related disruptions in China, its most profitable market.

Occidental Petroleum Corp (NYSE:OXY) climbed 3.1% after top investor Warren Buffett raised stake in the shale producer.

China ADRs also rose on Beijing easing its COVID curbs, with e-commerce firms Alibaba (NYSE:BABA).com, JD (NASDAQ:JD).com and Pinduoduo (NASDAQ:PDD) up between 1.2% and 1.4%

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Euro below $1.06 as Lagarde keeps July policy options open

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© Reuters. A shopper pays with a ten Euro bank note at a local market in Nice, France, June 7, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

By Saikat Chatterjee

LONDON (Reuters) – The Aussie and the Canadian dollar climbed on Tuesday on firmer oil prices while the euro held below $1.06 as European Central Bank (ECB) President Christine Lagarde offered no fresh insight on the central bank’s policy outlook.

The ECB is widely expected to follow its global peers by raising interest rates in July to check soaring inflation though economists are divided on the magnitude of the rate hike to protect a struggling economic recovery due to high oil prices.

Oil prices are up 10% in barely a week on supply constraint concerns with Brent crude holding above $117, pushing the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar up 0.3% and 0.4% respectively. [O/R]

“Oil is helping the Norwegian crown and the Canadian dollar to outperform and the euro is again running into resistance at the 1.06 level,” said Kenneth Broux, an FX strategist at Societe Generale (OTC:SCGLY) in London.

The euro held below $1.06 after the ECB’s Lagarde said the central bank would move gradually but with the option to act decisively on any deterioration in medium-term inflation, especially if there were signs of a de-anchoring of inflation expectations.

Money markets are pricing in about 238 basis points (bps) of cumulative rate hikes by mid-2023 compared to around 280 bps two weeks ago.

Broader currency market moves were contained in a big week for markets in economic data terms. German inflation figures are due on Wednesday, French data on Thursday and euro zone numbers on Friday.

At the other end of the dial, higher oil prices caused the partially convertible Indian rupee to open at a record low, and fall further to 78.67 per dollar.

The U.S. dollar index struck a two-decade high of 105.79 this month and was last steady at 103.93.

Elsewhere, the offshore Chinese yuan moved higher after China reduced COVID quarantine for international travellers.

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Economy

China’s economy recovering but foundation not solid, premier says

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is seen on a screen as he attends a news conference via video link after the closing session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) -China’s economy has recovered to some extent, but its foundation is not solid, state media on Tuesday quoted Premier Li Keqiang as saying.

China will strive to drive the economy back onto a normal track and bring down the jobless rate as soon as possible, Li was quoted as saying.

“Currently, the implementation of the policy package to stabilise the economy is accelerating and taking effect. The economy has recovered on the whole, but the foundation is not yet solid,” Li was quoted as saying.

“The task of stabilising employment remains arduous.”

China’s economy showed signs of recovery in May after slumping the previous month as industrial production revived, but consumption remained weak and underlined the challenge for policymakers amid the persistent drag from strict COVID-19 curbs.

China’s nationwide survey-based jobless rate fell to 5.9% in May from 6.1% in April, still above the government’s 2022 target of below 5.5%.

In particular, the surveyed jobless rate in 31 major cities picked up to 6.9%, the highest on record. Some economists expect employment to worsen before it gets better, with a record number of graduates entering the workforce in summer.

Li vowed to achieve reasonable economic growth in the second quarter, although some private-sector economists expect the economy to shrink in the April-June quarter from a year earlier, compared with the first quarter’s 4.8% growth.

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