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    New Data Show Few Black Economists at the Fed

    Black researchers made up about 1.5 percent of the Federal Reserve system’s 945-person staff of doctorate-level economists at the end of 2021, a number that highlights the central bank’s ongoing struggle to improve racial and ethnic diversity in its ranks.Data that the Fed on Thursday published publicly for the first time showed that 72 percent of the system’s Ph.D.-level economists are white, 17 percent are Asian, and 9.4 percent identify as Hispanic or Latino. A small share report identifying with two or more races.

    The new diversity figures follow reporting by The New York Times last year, in which data provided by the Fed showed that just 1.3 percent of economists across its system identified as Black alone around the end of 2020. The 2021 data are roughly, but not exactly comparable, because the central bank made methodological improvements in collecting the figures this year.Economics is a heavily white and Asian profession — just under 5 percentof U.S. citizens or residents who earned doctorates in the field in the 2020 school year were Black — but the Fed tends to be even less racially diverse than the profession as a whole. The release underlined that America’s central bank is making slow progress when it comes to hiring and retaining a more racially varied staff of experts.Across the Fed’s 12-bank system and Board of Governors in Washington, 14 Ph.D.-level economists identify as Black alone. The board employs 429 economists, but no Black women and just one Black man.There appears to be some progress toward greater diversity at the entry level, however. When it comes to the Fed’s 393 research assistants, who usually have bachelor’s degrees and are often aiming to pursue doctoral degrees in economics down the road, the new data showed that 19 people, or about 5 percent of the assistants, were Black.That is a slight improvement from 3.7 percent the prior year, and it roughly reflects the share of economics graduates who identify as Black.The Fed’s more entry-level staff was also more diverse by gender: 42 percent of research assistants were women, compared to about 25 percent of its doctorate-level economists.Lawmakers and think tanks have for years pushed the Fed to increase diversity within its ranks, arguing that having a set of economists and researchers at the central bank who more closely reflect the public — the people the Fed ultimately serves — would lead to a wider range of viewpoints around the policy table and more rounded economic discussions.The Fed sets the nation’s monetary policy, raising or lowering the cost of borrowing money in order to slow down or speed up the economy. Its actions help to determine how strong the labor market is in any given moment, help to control inflation, and can influence financial stability.“The risk with underrepresentation, from a substantive standpoint, is that you are underrepresenting perspectives that are important for policymaking,” said Skanda Amarnath, executive director at Employ America, which pushes the Fed to focus more intently on the job market.That could mean that a range of ideas and experiences “don’t get fully understood, or captured, to the same degree,” he said.The Fed is about to see greater racial diversity at its highest ranks: Lisa D. Cook and Philip N. Jefferson, who are both Black, were confirmed as Fed governors just this week. Susan M. Collins will become the first Black woman ever to lead a regional Fed bank when she becomes president of the Boston Fed this summer, and Raphael Bostic, the first Black man to ever lead a regional bank, is currently president of the Atlanta Fed.The Fed’s leadership team has also become more gender diverse in recent years. Assuming Mr. Biden’s nominees are all confirmed, three of the central bank’s seven governors will be women. Once new presidents take office in Boston and Dallas this summer, five of its 12 regional bank leaders will be women.Fed officials have in recent years talked publicly about aiming for a broader array of views within their own workplaces.“The Atlanta Fed is committed to modeling economic inclusion, and that starts with our own organization,” Mr. Bostic from Atlanta said in a 2020 opinion piece, published after George Floyd, a Black man, died at the hands of the police in Minneapolis. “We embrace diversity and inclusion as essential to who we are.” More

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    Senate Confirms Philip Jefferson as a Fed Governor

    Philip N. Jefferson, a college administrator and academic economist, was confirmed to the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors on Wednesday.Senators approved him for the job in an overwhelming bipartisan 91-7 vote. He is the third of President Biden’s nominees to secure a spot on the Fed’s seven-person board: Lisa D. Cook was confirmed as a governor on Tuesday, and Lael Brainard was confirmed as vice chair last month.Mr. Jefferson, who was most recently vice president for academic affairs at Davidson College, was born in Washington, D.C., and holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia. He has been an economist at the Fed board, and has written about poverty and monetary policy’s effect on the labor market, among other topics.The White House has also renominated Jerome H. Powell as Fed chair, though Mr. Powell is still awaiting a final confirmation vote. Senators said that vote was expected as soon as Thursday.The administration’s nominee for the final open Fed job — the vice chair for supervision — has yet to have a committee hearing and vote. Mr. Biden’s initial nominee for the position, Sarah Bloom Raskin, withdrew from consideration after it became clear that she would not pass the Senate. Michael S. Barr was put up for the job more recently.If those picks are confirmed, Mr. Biden will have nominated or renominated five of the Fed’s seven governors. The Fed is independent of politics, so those appointments are the main way that the White House can shape the future of monetary policy, which is used to keep inflation stable and employment high.Governors at the Fed’s board in Washington hold constant votes on monetary policy and oversee the nation’s largest banks. They set interest rates to guide the economy alongside 12 regional reserve bank presidents, five of whom hold a vote on monetary policy at any given time.Mr. Jefferson and Ms. Cook are likely to support the Fed’s current project: reining in rapid inflation. Consumer prices climbed 8.3 percent in the year through April, data released Wednesday showed, an uncomfortably rapid pace of increase. Fed officials are raising rates at the fastest pace in decades as they try to tamp down price pressures and bring the situation under control.“The spike in inflation we are seeing today threatens to heighten expectations of future inflation,” Mr. Jefferson said during his confirmation hearing. “The Federal Reserve must remain attentive to this risk and ensure that inflation declines to levels consistent with its goals.” More

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    Fed Officials Are on the Defensive as High Inflation Lingers

    Christopher Waller, a governor at the Federal Reserve, faced an uncomfortable task on Friday night: He delivered remarks at a conference packed with leading academic economists titled, suggestively, “How Monetary Policy Got Behind the Curve and How to Get Back.”Fed officials — who set America’s monetary policy — have found themselves on the defensive in Washington, on Wall Street and within the economics profession as inflation has run at its fastest rate in 40 years. Friday’s event, at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, was the clearest expression yet of the growing sense of skepticism around the Fed’s recent policy approach.The Fed is raising interest rates, and on Wednesday lifted them by the largest increment since 2000. But prominent economists on Friday blasted America’s central bankers for being slow to realize that inflation was going to run meaningfully higher in 2021 as big government spending goosed consumer demand. They criticized the Fed for taking monetary policy support away from the economy too haltingly once it began to react. Some suggested that it was still moving tentatively when more decisive action was warranted.Mr. Waller defended and explained the decisions the Fed made last year. Many inflation forecasters failed to predict the 2021 price burst, he noted, pointing out that the Fed pivoted toward removing policy support starting as early as September, when it became clear that inflation was a problem.“The Fed was not alone in underestimating the strength of inflation that revealed itself in late 2021,” said Mr. Waller, who expected inflation to be slightly higher than many of his colleagues. He noted that the Fed’s policy-setting committee had to coalesce around policy moves, which can take time given its size: It has 12 regional presidents and up to seven governors in Washington.Understand Inflation in the U.S.Inflation 101: What is inflation, why is it up and whom does it hurt? Our guide explains it all.Your Questions, Answered: Times readers sent us their questions about rising prices. Top experts and economists weighed in.Interest Rates: As it seeks to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates for the first time since 2018. Here is what the increases mean for consumers.How Americans Feel: We asked 2,200 people where they’ve noticed inflation. Many mentioned basic necessities, like food and gas.Supply Chain’s Role: A key factor in rising inflation is the continuing turmoil in the global supply chain. Here’s how the crisis unfolded.“This process may lead to more gradual changes in policy as members have to compromise in order to reach a consensus,” Mr. Waller said.Such explanations have done little to shield the Fed so far. Lawrence H. Summers, a former Harvard president and Treasury secretary, suggested earlier Friday that an economic overheating was predictable last year as the government spent heavily and that “it was reasonable to expect that the bathtub would overflow.” Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor, called inflation “a clear and present danger to the American people,” and declared the Fed’s reaction “slow.”And even as the Fed comes under fire for responding too ploddingly as inflation pressures began to build, a new debate is evolving over how quickly — and how much — rates need to increase to catch up and wrestle fast price increases back under control.The Fed lifted interest rates half a percentage point this week and forecast more to come. Still, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said officials were not discussing an even larger, 0.75-point move — suggesting that central bankers are still hoping to control inflation without choking off growth abruptly and shocking the economy.“If supply constraints unwind quickly, we might only need to take policy back to neutral or go modestly above it to bring inflation back down,” Neel Kashkari, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, wrote in a post on Friday. “Neutral” refers to the policy setting that neither stokes nor slows the economy.Inflation F.A.Q.Card 1 of 6What is inflation? More

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    Bank of England raises rates to 1 percent amid recession worries.

    As prices for energy, food and commodities rise after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the impact is being felt sharply around the world. In Britain, the central bank pushed interest rates to their highest level in 13 years on Thursday, in an effort to arrest rapidly rising prices even as the risk of recession is growing.The bank predicted that inflation would rise to its highest level in four decades in the final quarter of this year, and that the British economy would shrink by nearly 1 percent.“Global inflationary pressures have intensified sharply in the buildup to and following the invasion,” Andrew Bailey, the governor of the Bank of England, said on Thursday. “This has led to a material deterioration in the outlook,” he added, for both the global and British economies. On an annual basis, the economy would also shrink next year.The Bank of England raised interest rates to 1 percent from 0.75 percent, their highest level since 2009. Three members of the nine-person rate-setting committee wanted to take a more aggressive step and raise rates by half a percentage point. The Bank of England has raised rates at every policy meeting since December.Prices rose 7 percent in Britain in March from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1992. The central bank predicts the inflation rate will peak above 10 percent in the last quarter of the year, when household energy bills will increase again after the government’s energy price cap is reset in October. Ten percent would be the highest rate since 1982.The rapidly changing landscape was reflected in the prospects for economic growth. In 2023, the bank now predicts, the economy will shrink 0.25 percent instead of growing 1.25 percent, which it predicted three months ago.On Wednesday, policymakers at the U.S. Federal Reserve increased interest rates half a percentage point, the biggest jump in 22 years, in an effort to cool down the economy quickly as inflation runs at its fastest pace in four decades. The U.S. central bank also said it would begin shrinking its balance sheet, allowing bond holdings to mature without reinvestment.On Thursday, the Bank of England said its staff would begin planning to sell the government bonds it had purchased, but a decision on whether to commence these sales hasn’t been made. The bank stopped making new net purchases at the end of last year after buying 875 billion pounds ($1.1 trillion) in bonds. The bank said it would provide an update in August.The outlook for the global economy has been rocked by the war in Ukraine, which is pushing up the price of energy, food and other commodities such as metals and fertilizer. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt trade and supply chains, particularly from shutdowns stemming from China’s zero-Covid policy. Last month, the International Monetary Fund slashed its forecast for global economic growth this year to 3.6 percent from 4.4 percent, which was predicted in January.The challenge for policymakers in Britain is stark. The Bank of England has a mandate to achieve a 2 percent inflation rate. At the same time, there is evidence that the economy is already slowing down, consumer confidence is dropping and businesses are worried that price increases will depress consumer spending, a key driver of economic growth. With inflation at its highest level in three decades and wage growth unable to keep up, British households are facing a painful squeeze on their budgets.Household disposable income, adjusted for inflation, is expected to fall 1.75 percent this year, the second largest drop since records began in 1964, the bank said. The central bank’s challenge is to slow inflation to ease the pressure on households and businesses without cooling the economy too much and tipping it into a recession.“Monetary policy must, therefore, navigate a narrow path between the increased risks from elevated inflation and a tight labor market on one hand, and the further hit to activity from the reduction in real incomes on the other,” Mr. Bailey said on Thursday.Weighing that alternative, policymakers figured that pressures on costs for business and prices for consumers would persist unless they took action. Companies expect to strongly increase the selling prices for their goods and services in the near term, after the sharp rises in their expenses, the bank said. At the same time, inflation could become more entrenched because the unemployment rate is low, forcing companies to raise wages to meet their hiring needs. More

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    Biden to Nominate Michael Barr as Fed Vice Chair for Supervision

    The Biden administration said on Friday that it intended to nominate Michael S. Barr, a law professor and a former Obama administration official, to be the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for supervision.The position — one of America’s top financial regulatory spots — has proved to be a particularly thorny one to fill.The administration’s initial nominee, Sarah Bloom Raskin, failed to win Senate confirmation after Republicans took issue with her writing on climate-related financial oversight and seized on her limited answers about her private-sector work. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, joined Republicans in deciding not to support her, ending her chances.Mr. Barr, the dean of the University of Michigan’s public policy school, could also face challenges in securing widespread support. He was a leading contender to be nominated as comptroller of the currency but ran into opposition from progressive Democrats.Some of the complaints centered on his work in government: As a Treasury Department official during the Obama administration, Mr. Barr played a major role in putting together the Dodd-Frank Act, which revamped financial regulation after the 2008 financial crisis. But some said he opposed some especially stringent measures for big banks.Other opponents when his name was floated for that post focused on his private-sector work with the financial technology and cryptocurrency industry.But President Biden described Mr. Barr as a qualified candidate who would bring years of experience to the job.“Barr has strong support from across the political spectrum,” the president said in a statement announcing the decision. He noted that Mr. Barr had been confirmed to his Treasury post “on a bipartisan basis.”Senator Sherrod Brown, the Ohio Democrat who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said in a statement, “I will support this key nominee, and I strongly urge my Republican colleagues to abandon their old playbook of personal attacks and demagoguery.”Ian Katz, managing director at the research and advisory firm Capital Alpha, put Mr. Barr’s chance of confirmation at 60 percent. “Barr is seen by many as more moderate than Sarah Bloom Raskin,” Mr. Katz wrote in a note ahead of the announcement but after speculation that Mr. Barr might be chosen.Mr. Barr completes Mr. Biden’s slate of candidates for the central bank’s five open positions.The other picks — Jerome H. Powell for another term as Fed chair, Lael Brainard for vice chair, and Lisa D. Cook and Philip N. Jefferson for seats on the Board of Governors — await confirmation. Those nominations have gotten past the Senate Banking Committee, the first step toward confirmation, and a vote before the full Senate is expected in the coming weeks.Mr. Biden said he would work with the committee to get Mr. Barr through his first vote quickly, and he called for swift confirmation of the others. More

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    March Fed Minutes: ‘Many’ Officials in Favor of a Big Rate Increase

    Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s March meeting showed that central bankers were preparing to shrink their portfolio of bond holdings imminently while raising interest rates “expeditiously,” as the central bank tries to cool off the economy and rapid inflation.Fed officials are making money more expensive to borrow and spend in a bid to slow shopping and business investment, hoping that weaker demand will help to tame prices, which are now climbing at the fastest pace in four decades.Central bankers raised interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point in March, their first increase since 2018 — and the minutes showed that “many” officials would have preferred an even bigger rate move and were held back only by uncertainty tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Markets now expect the Fed to make half-point increases in May and possibly June, even as they begin to withdraw additional support from the economy by shrinking their balance sheet.The balance sheet stands at nearly $9 trillion — swollen by pandemic response policies — and Fed officials plan to shrink it by allowing some of their government-backed bond holdings to expire starting as soon as May, the minutes showed. That will help to further push up interest rates, potentially leading to slower growth, more muted hiring and weaker wage increases. Eventually, the theory goes, the chain reaction should help to slow inflation. “They’re very resolute in fighting inflation and moving it lower,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “They are concerned.”While central bankers were hesitant to react to rapid inflation last year, hoping it would prove “transitory” and fade quickly, those expectations have been dashed. Price increases remain rapid, and officials are watching warily for signs that they might turn more permanent.“All participants underscored the need to remain attentive to the risks of further upward pressure on inflation and longer-run inflation expectations,” the minutes showed.Now, officials are trying to cool off the economy as it is growing quickly and the job market is rapidly improving. Employers added 431,000 jobs in March, wages are climbing swiftly, and the unemployment rate is just about matching the 50-year low that prevailed before the pandemic.Central bankers are hoping that the strong job market will help them slow the economy without tipping it into an outright recession. That will be a challenge, given the Fed’s blunt policy tools, a reality that officials have acknowledged.At the same time, Fed officials are worried that if they do not respond vigorously to high inflation, consumers and businesses may come to expect persistently higher prices. That could perpetuate quick price increases and make wrestling them under control even more painful.“It is of paramount importance to get inflation down,” Lael Brainard, a Fed governor who is the nominee to be the central bank’s vice chair, said on Tuesday. “Accordingly, the committee will continue tightening monetary policy methodically through a series of interest rate increases and by starting to reduce the balance sheet at a rapid pace as soon as our May meeting.”Ms. Brainard’s statement that balance sheet shrinking could happen “rapidly” caught markets by surprise, sending stocks lower and rates on bonds higher. Investors also focused their attention on the minutes released on Wednesday.The notes from the March meeting provided more details about what the balance sheet process might look like. Fed officials are coalescing around a plan to slow their reinvestment of securities, the minutes showed, most likely capping the monthly shrinking at $60 billion for Treasury securities and $35 billion for mortgage-backed debt.That would be about twice the maximum pace the Fed set when it shrank its balance sheet between 2017 and 2019, confirming the signal policymakers have been giving in recent weeks that the plan could proceed much more quickly this time around.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

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    Russia’s Central Bank Projects Economic Decline 

    Russia’s central bank governor, Elvira Nabiullina, said on Friday that the country’s economy would decline in the coming quarters and that inflation would jump further as sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine took their toll. Earlier, the bank’s board of directors held interest rates at 20 percent.The bank said the doubling in interest rates on Feb. 28, from 9.5 percent, and capital controls curbing the movement of money had helped sustain financial stability in Russia and stop uncontrolled price increases. But the latest inflation data shows that, as of March 11, prices in Russia had risen 12.5 percent from a year earlier.Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to strict economic sanctions by the United States and Europe, encouraged a large number of Western companies and banks to retreat from the country, and isolated Russia from much of the global financial system.“The Russian economy is entering the phase of a large-scale structural transformation, which will be accompanied by a temporary but inevitable period of increased inflation,” the Russian central bank said in a statement Friday.Gross domestic product “will decline in the next quarters,” Ms. Nabiullina said later. Two consecutive quarters of economic decline are generally considered to be a recession.The effects of the sanctions are being keenly felt in Russia.“Today, almost all companies are experiencing disruptions in production and logistical chains and in their settlements with foreign counterparties,” Ms. Nabiullina said. Inflation was driven higher, she said, by a rise in demand for cars, household appliances, electronic devices and other goods as people rushed to buy because they feared prices would rise higher and supplies would run out. The ruble has lost about 30 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year.President Vladimir V. Putin put Ms. Nabiullina forward for another term as central bank governor on Friday. She has held the position since 2013. Ms. Nabiullina also said on Friday that stock trading on the Moscow Exchange would remain closed but that government bond trading will restart on Monday. Stocks haven’t been traded on the exchange since Feb. 25. More

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    Mortgage Rates Hit 4 Percent for First Time in 3 Years

    Mortgage rates topped 4 percent this week for the first time in nearly three years — and are expected to keep climbing.The rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.16 percent for the week through Thursday, the first time it exceeded 4 percent since May 2019, according to Freddie Mac. That was up from 3.85 percent a week earlier and 3.09 percent a year ago.Rates have been ticking up thanks to a 40-year high in inflation, which the Federal Reserve is attempting to rein in by raising interest rates. On Wednesday, the Fed raised its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point, the first increase since 2018, and it signaled that six more similarly sized increases were on the way.Mortgage rates don’t move in lock step with the Fed benchmark — they instead track the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds. That figure is influenced by a variety of factors, including the inflation rate, the Fed’s actions and how investors react to them.“The Federal Reserve raising short-term rates and signaling further increases means mortgage rates should continue to rise over the course of the year,” Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement.“While home purchase demand has moderated, it remains competitive due to low existing inventory, suggesting high house price pressures will continue during the spring home-buying season,” he added.The average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages dropped as low as 2.65 percent in January 2021. More