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Fed’s Barkin Says Labor Market Hasn’t Healed, Prices May Cool More Than Seen - WSJ

·2 min read

By Dhirendra Tripathi

Investing.com – The labor market hasn’t healed enough for the Federal Reserve to reduce its monthly bond purchases, The Wall Street Journal reported Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin as saying on Monday.

Barkin, seen by many as a centrist on the Fed's policy-setting committee, told the WSJ he's not yet ready to call for the purchases, currently running at $120 billion a month, to be 'tapered'. Most of the purchases go to the U.S. Treasury market, while some $40 billion of the remainder goes toward buying mortgage bonds.

Barkin also said inflation could cool more than expected once the economic reopening process is complete.

“This pandemic has at least one more chapter to go, because when we get through the current return-to-normal and supply-chain-driven surge [in inflation], there’s going to be a reversion” in price pressures, he told the WSJ.

The official said he is looking at employment-to-population ratio to help him decide when the central bank can dial back.

This ratio stood at 61.1% in February 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. and economic activity cratered. It bottomed out in April of that year at 51.3% and has risen since, hitting 58% this June. Barkin told the WSJ he would like to see it above 59% before the Fed starts to tighten policy.

The Fed's current guidance implies it won't raise interest rates until 2023. That forecast has been moved up from 2024 in response to a string of strong economic data this year, which have included a rise in headline inflation.

U.S. consumer prices rose by 5% in May, the highest in 13 years. The Fed targets an inflation rate of 2% but the focus on growth amid a pandemic has forced to let it overshoot that.

Barkin doesn’t hold a vote this year on the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee.

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