Fed’s Bostic: No need for further rate hikes, for now

There is no need for further hikes in the federal funds rate at this time, Raphael Bostic, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, said today at the ABA Annual Convention in Nashville. In a Q&A with ABA Chief Policy Officer Naomi Camper, Bostic noted that inflation is still well above the Fed’s 2% target, but the economy is slowing and companies are telling him that business conditions are returning to normal levels after the disruption of the pandemic. Still, he cautioned that the last few years have shown that unexpected events can quickly throw a wrench into economic forecasting.

“I often get asked the question, ‘What are the three things that are on your list that are keeping you up at night?’” Bostic said. “I used to actually give three things. Now I say ‘everything,’ because a global pandemic was not on my list. A war in Europe was not on my list. A war in the Middle East was not on my list.”

Bostic is currently an alternate member of the Federal Open Market Committee but will transition to a voting member next year. The FOMC last met in September, where committee members decided to leave the federal fund rates target range unchanged at 5.25% to 5.5%. Other FOMC members have indicated they would support further rate increases but Bostic said he views the current rate at a “sufficiently restrictive level” to return inflation to the Fed’s 2% target. And while he usually avoids using the term “soft landing,” Bostic said he believes the U.S. economy has sufficient momentum to slow while avoiding a recession.

Bostic also was asked about the role of banks in fostering economic inclusion in traditionally underserved communities, with the Atlanta Fed having formed a special committee on payments inclusion. Bostic said he has seen firsthand the importance of banks, adding that there are profitable opportunities in every community. “So many services and so many things that allow businesses and families to thrive are offered through the banking sector, and so getting that entry point is important,” he said. “And I would say if you’re not doing that, there are some opportunities out there that you’re not taking advantage of, and you should definitely think hard about that.”