Jerome Powell Will Acknowledge Inflation’s Toll in Senate Testimony
Central bankers will act to keep rapid price gains from becoming permanent, Mr. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will say during a renomination hearing.
Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair whom President Biden has nominated for a second four-year term, is set to tell senators on Tuesday that central bankers will use their economic tools to keep inflation — which has been high — from becoming entrenched.
Mr. Powell, who is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee as he seeks confirmation, faces reappointment at an anxious economic moment. Inflation is running at the fastest pace in nearly 40 years. While economists have hoped for months that it would soon fade, that has yet to happen. Higher prices are chipping away at household incomes, even as wages rise and as companies hire at a solid clip.
“We know that high inflation exacts a toll, particularly for those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing and transportation,” Mr. Powell will tell lawmakers, according to his prepared remarks. “We are strongly committed to achieving our statutory goals of maximum employment and price stability.”
Mr. Powell and his colleagues in recent months have reoriented their policies to pull back on support for the economy in light of the inflationary burst. They are slowing a large bond-buying program they had been using to keep longer-term borrowing cheap and to stoke the economy, and they could raise interest rates as soon as March.
“Monetary policy must take a broad and forward-looking view, keeping pace with an ever-evolving economy,” Mr. Powell will tell senators.
Economists increasingly expect Fed officials to make three or even four increases this year and eventually to shrink the size of their bond holdings, policies that together will make borrowing more expensive for households and businesses, take juice out of the stock market and slow overall growth.
The pivot — which squarely puts the Fed in inflation-fighting mode — could assuage some lawmakers who are worried that the central bank is going to allow inflation to jump out of control. Even so, some may worry what has taken monetary policymakers so long.
Others may ask whether the central bank risks overdoing it. Removing support for the economy could slow the job market and curtail hiring while virus concerns and child care issues are keeping many former workers on the labor market’s sidelines.
Mr. Powell most likely will also need to address a trading scandal that has rocked the Fed in recent months. Several prominent central bankers traded financial assets for their own portfolios in early 2020, when the Fed was very active in rescuing markets.
One, Richard H. Clarida, the vice chair, recently corrected his financial disclosures in a way that made his hot-button transaction — a move into stocks that took place on the eve of a big Fed announcement — look less like the rebalancing that the Fed originally said it had been and more like a response to market conditions.
Mr. Clarida announced on Monday that he would resign earlier than planned from the Fed.
Mr. Powell did not address that development directly in the prepared remarks, but he pledged to be fair and independent in policy choices.
“I am committed to making those decisions with objectivity, integrity and impartiality, based on the best available evidence and in the longstanding tradition of monetary policy independence,” he will say.