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Fed’s Bowman Again Urges Multiple Rate Hikes to Curb Inflation

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(Bloomberg) — Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman again said that multiple interest-rate hikes may be required to get inflation down to the central bank’s goal even after data for August showed some of the slowest price increases since 2020.

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“I continue to expect that further rate increases will likely be needed to return inflation to 2% in a timely way,” Bowman said in remarks to bankers in Banff, Canada. “I see a continued risk that high energy prices could reverse some of the progress we have seen on inflation in recent months.”

US central bankers left the benchmark lending rate unchanged last month in a range of 5.25% to 5.5% — a 22-year high — while their latest quarterly forecasts showed one more increase this year.

The core personal consumption expenditures price index, which strips out the volatile food and energy components, climbed 0.1% in August from a month earlier, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis report out Friday. A key gauge of services costs watched closely by the Fed also posted the smallest monthly advance since 2020.

Bowman said Sept. 22 that further rate hikes would be needed to return inflation to 2% “in a timely way.” Today’s remarks suggested that she is unpersuaded the inflation readings for August represent a sustainable step-down in price increases.

Most officials forecast at least one more rate hike this year at their meeting last month. The median policymaker saw the federal funds rate at 5.1% by the end of 2024, higher than previously estimated. Bowman’s comments suggest she might have the highest interest-rate forecast for 2024, when one official predicted the federal funds rate would be in a range of 6% to 6.25%.

Bowman told the bankers in Canada her expectation is that “progress on inflation is likely to be slow given the current level of monetary policy restraint.” She added that “further policy tightening will be needed to bring inflation down in a sustainable and timely manner.”

Bowman reiterated a call for an independent, third-party review of this year’s bank failures. She noted that while internal reviews, including one released last week by the Fed’s inspector general, have shed some light on what happened with Silicon Valley Bank and others, they have been limited in their scope.

She warned that supervisory practices have already started changing, now taking on a more “heavy-handed approach“ and relying more on regular filings, including so-called call reports, which detail a bank’s financial data, without direct interaction with the bank. While some changes to bank regulations were proposed earlier this year, nothing has been formally approved and the process generally takes months or years.

(Updates with additional information starting in sixth paragraph.)

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