Fed should be wary of ‘dovish pivot,’ Larry Summers warns

The Federal Reserve should maintain its hawkish stance at its meeting this week despite mounting calls for a pivot toward softer economic policy, ex-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers asserted Monday.

The Fed will announce its latest policy move at the conclusion of a two-day summit Wednesday. Summers, a frequent critic of the Fed’s response to inflation, argued the central bank should reaffirm that policy tightening will continue until prices meaningfully recede.  

“I do not think that the dovish pivot in some of the rhetoric coming out of the Fed has yet been warranted by the economic statistics that I have seen,” Summers told Bloomberg on Monday.

“I hope the Fed will be clear that it is staying the course on doing what’s necessary until we see very clear signs of inflation coming down, but we’ll have to see how they assess things,” Summers added.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell has remained adamant for months that policymakers were committed to a tightened policy environment until inflation improves. However, mounting fears of a recession have prompted increased calls among investors for the Fed to dial down its interest rate hikes.

Inflation is still hovering above 8%.
Bloomberg Markets and Finance

Earlier this month, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said the central bankers should seek to avoid an “unforced downturn” in the economy as a result of hiking rates too sharply.

“We have to make sure we are doing everything in our power not to over-tighten, and we can’t pull up too fast, and say we are done,” Daly said, according to Reuters.

Investors are pricing in an 88% probability that the Fed will hike by three-quarters of a percentage point and a 12% probability of a smaller half-point hike, according to data from CME Group. A week ago, the market saw a nearly 96% probability of a three-quarter-point hike.

Summers has been one of the most outspoken voices calling on the Fed to tackle inflation, even if tightened policy results in significant job losses.

The Fed is expected to hike its benchmark interest rate by 0.75%.

The former Clinton administration official said this week’s Fed gathering was a “big meeting” with major implications for the economic outlook.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to be very surprised when they do 75 basis points and that certainly would be what I would expect. I think people are going to be watching very carefully for the signals coming out of this meeting with respect to the next meeting and beyond,” Summers added.

The Fed has hiked by three-quarters of a percentage point for three consecutive meetings.

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