© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell holds a press conference after the release of the Fed policy decision to leave interest rates unchanged, at the Federal Reserve in Washington, U.S, September 20, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File P
By Michael S. Derby
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell two years ago asked the U.S. central bank’s internal watchdog to investigate the trading activities of some of its senior officials, including Powell. The probe has yet to conclude. Here’s a rundown of key events in the controversy.
Sept. 7, 2021: The Wall Street Journal reports that the presidents of the Dallas and Boston Fed banks actively traded in financial markets while helping set monetary policy. Fed ethics officials signed off on the trading, which was done most actively by Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan, based on an ethics code then in place which called on policymakers to avoid investments that would suggest conflicts of interest.
Sept. 9, 2021: Kaplan and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren pledge to divest their stock holdings.
Sept. 16, 2021: The Fed says it will review its existing ethics code. Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren calls on the Fed to ban stock ownership by its leaders.
Sept. 22, 2021: Powell declines to offer support to Kaplan and Rosengren during a press conference following the end of a policy meeting. “I think no one is happy, no one on the FOMC (Federal Open Market Committee) is happy to be in this situation, to be having these questions raised,” he says.
Sept. 27, 2021: Kaplan and Rosengren announce their departures from the Fed within hours of one another.
Oct. 4, 2021: Powell refers the matter to Fed Inspector General Mark Bialek for a fuller investigation.
Oct. 8, 2021: The Dallas and Boston Fed banks pledge full cooperation with the IG probe, although a full accounting of Kaplan’s trading has never been made public.
Oct. 21, 2021: The Fed announces a new ethics code for central bank officials and senior staff that sharply restricts what they can invest in and when they can trade.
Jan. 6, 2022: The New York Times reports then-Fed Vice Chair Richard Clarida failed to report the extent of a trade in 2020 that was done as the Fed was preparing to offer emergency support during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jan. 10, 2022: Clarida says he will leave the Fed several weeks before the end of his term.
Feb. 18, 2022: The Fed formalizes a new ethics policy, broadens the scope of what officials can’t do and extends the rules to family members.
July 14, 2022: The IG clears Powell and Clarida of wrongdoing over trades that violated the Fed’s investment policy.
Oct. 14, 2022: Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic announces what he said were inadvertent violations of policies restricting when Fed officials could trade and invest. Powell asks the IG to investigate the matter.
March 22, 2023: A bipartisan Senate bill is announced that would make the Fed IG a presidential appointment requiring confirmation by the Senate to increase the watchdog’s independence. The IG is currently selected by the Fed chair.
April 27, 2023: Bialek objects to the Senate bill. The IG defends his independence and says the change would cut the pay for his position, making it difficult in the future to attract high-quality candidates.
May 17, 2023: Senators question Bialek’s independence during a public hearing, and he responds that the Fed has never interfered in one of his investigations
June 15, 2023: Bostic acknowledges more inadvertent trades that ran afoul of the ethics code in place.
Fed pivot to interest-rate cuts seen likely to start in May
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is seen in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo
By Ann Saphir
(Reuters) – A stronger-than-expected U.S. labor market won’t keep the Federal Reserve from pivoting to a series of interest-rate cuts next year, but it could take until May for it to deliver the first reduction, traders bet on Friday.
Employers added 199,000 workers to their payrolls in November, the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report showed, more than the 180,000 that economists had expected, and the unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 3.7%, from 3.9% in October.
Hourly earnings ticked up 0.4% from a month earlier, more than expected and an acceleration from the prior month. But the labor force participation rate also rose, to 62.8%, easing the prospect that an overheated job market will short-circuit progress on the Fed’s inflation battle.
A separate report Friday showed U.S. consumer sentiment improved more than expected in December as households saw inflation pressures easing.
The U.S. central bank is expected to keep rates in the current 5.25%-5.50% range when it meets next week, leaving policy on hold since July. Traders before Friday’s jobs report had put about a 60% probability on a March start to Fed rate cuts, but after the data reduced that to just under 50%, with a first reduction seen as more likely to come in May.
Further rate cuts are priced in for the rest of 2024, with the policy rate seen ending the year in the 4%-4.25% range as the Fed adjusts borrowing costs downward not as an antidote to a weaker labor market but rather to keep pace with an expected continued cooling in inflation.
The pace of that improvement in inflation will help determine the timing of the Fed’s pivot to rate cuts, analysts said.
“We maintain our call for the Fed to start cutting rates by mid-year, but it is contingent on inflation continuing to trend lower and further weakening in economic activity,” wrote Nationwide economist Kathy Bostjancic after the report.
Fed policymakers will release their own views of where the economy, inflation, and interest rates will go next year when they wrap up their last meeting of the year on Wednesday.
US consumers’ moods brighten as inflation worries subside – UMich
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A person arranges groceries in El Progreso Market in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Washington, D.C., U.S., August 19, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger/File Photo
(Reuters) -U.S. consumer sentiment perked up much more than expected in December, snapping four straight months of declines, as households saw inflation pressures easing, a survey showed on Friday.
The University of Michigan’s preliminary reading of its Consumer Sentiment Index shot up to 69.4, the highest since August, from November’s final reading of 61.3.
The median expectation among economists in a Reuters poll had been for the index to edge up to 62.0.
“Consumer sentiment soared 13% in December, erasing all declines from the previous four months, primarily on the basis of improvements in the expected trajectory of inflation,” survey Director Joanne Hsu said in a statement.
The survey’s preliminary gauge of current conditions rose to 74.0 from last month’s final level of 68.3, while the expectations index climbed to 66.4, the highest since July, from 56.8 in November.
Consumers’ outlook for inflation in the year ahead plunged to 3.1% – the lowest since March 2021 – from November’s final expectation of 4.5%. The 1.4 percentage point decline was the largest monthly drop in one-year inflation expectations in 22 years.
Over a five-year horizon, consumers expect inflation to average a three-month low of 2.8%, down from 3.2% in November, which had been the highest since March 2011, when it reached the same level.
Russian inflation accelerates in November, rate hike beckons
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People shop at a local market in the town of Rostov in the Yaroslavl Region, Russia April 15, 2023. REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina/File Photo
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Inflation in Russia accelerated in November, data from state statistics service Rosstat showed on Friday, cementing expectations that the central bank will hike interest rates as it meets for the final time this year on Dec. 15.
The central bank has now raised rates by 750 basis points since July, including an unscheduled emergency hike in August, under pressure from a weak rouble, tight labour market and strong consumer demand. Analysts widely expect another hike, to 16%, next week.
High interest rates are one of several irksome economic challenges facing President Vladimir Putin, who on Friday said he would run again for president next year, although none seem insurmountable thanks to Russia’s success in evading a Western oil price cap helping to drive a recovery in economic growth.
In November, annual inflation stood at 7.48% year-on-year, up from 6.69% a month earlier and just shy of analysts’ expectations of a 7.6% reading.
The data suggests that annual inflation will exceed the central bank’s expectation of year-end inflation at the upper end of the 7.0%-7.5% range, which is well above its 4% target.
On a monthly basis, the consumer price index (CPI) rose 1.11% in November after a 0.83% increase in October, the data showed, coming just below analyst forecasts of a 1.2% increase. That was the fastest monthly rise since April 2022.
In the week up to Dec. 4, consumer prices rose 0.12%, separate Rosstat data showed.
Russian households regularly cite inflation as a major concern, with many having no savings after a decade of economic crises, while rising prices dragged living standards down across the country.
Rosstat gave the following details:
RUSSIAN CPI Nov 23 Oct 23 Nov 22
Mth/mth pct change +1.11 +0.83 +0.37
– food +1.55 +1.35 +0.40
– non-food +0.53 +0.55 +0.06
– services +1.23 +0.48 +0.76
Y/Y pct change +7.48 +6.69 +11.98
Core CPI y/y pct change +6.36 +5.50 +15.06
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