Yellen expects another year where inflation remains 'uncomfortably high'
Inflation took a turn for the worse in February as U.S. consumer price growth rose by 7.9%, representing the largest 12-month increase since January 1982. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy - and is the Fed's preferred gauge of inflation - even advanced 6.4% Y/Y, according to the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. All the numbers were gathered before the supercharged commodity rally driven by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, suggesting the red-hot inflation figures are nowhere close to peaking. As inflation surges, Adobe says online prices rise at record rates.
Aggressive tightening? Some had thought that central banks would slam the brakes after the conflict erupted, but the market reaction has been just the opposite. A hefty series of quarter point rate hikes are now on the table, with markets appearing to accept a coming period of "stagflation" (that's when sustained inflation is coupled with lower economic growth). It's a delicate balance for the Fed as tightening policy too sharply risks undercutting the economy and possibly triggering a recession. Investors eye possible downturn in consumer discretionary spending.
"I don't want to make a prediction exactly as to what's going to happen in the second half of the year," said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, former chair of the Federal Reserve (current Chair Jay Powell is under a blackout period before the FOMC's meeting next week). "We're likely to see another year in which 12-month inflation numbers remain very uncomfortably high," she added, stating the Fed was looking at the data carefully and will take an actionable response.
Over in Europe: The ECB on Thursday cut its growth forecasts and raised inflation predictions, against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine. President Christine Lagarde even called the conflict a "watershed" moment for the continent, but would do whatever it takes to pursue price stability. She also said the ECB will scale back its bond-buying program "shortly" before raising rates, and with net purchases likely stopping in Q3, the market is pricing in a rare ECB quarter-point rate hike for October.