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    Fed’s Powell Welcomes Cooler Inflation but Steers Clear of Rate Cut Timing

    Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, avoided signaling when the Fed would cut rates at a time when some economists are wondering why officials would wait.Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, avoided sending a clear signal about when the central bank would begin to cut interest rates even as he welcomed a recent cool-down in inflation.“Today I’m not going to be sending any signals one way or the other on any particular meeting,” Mr. Powell said while speaking at the Economic Club of Washington on Monday. “Just to ruin the fun right at the beginning.”The Fed’s chair was speaking after several inflation reports in a row suggested that price increases were moderating in earnest, a development that had spurred some economists to think that it could make sense for officials to cut interest rates sooner rather than later. The Fed meets at the end of July and then again in September, and investors have been largely expecting that officials will begin to lower borrowing costs at the September meeting.Economists at Goldman Sachs wrote in a research note on Monday that cutting rates this month could be appropriate, given how much inflation had come down.“If the case for a cut is clear, why wait another seven weeks before delivering it?” Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, wrote in the note, explaining that while his team still thinks that a rate cut in September is more likely, there is a “solid rationale” for an earlier move.But Mr. Powell did little to open the door to an earlier move during his Monday remarks. While he said recent inflation reports had added to central bankers’ confidence that price increases were coming down, he avoided giving a clear signal about when officials would have enough confidence to lower borrowing costs.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Republican Party Rejects Free-Market Economics in Favor of Trump’s Signature Issues

    Donald J. Trump’s presidency was a major turn away from the Republican Party’s long embrace of free-market economics. If the Republican platform is any indication, a second Trump term would be a near-complete abandonment.The 2024 platform, which was released last week and is expected to infuse the Republican National Convention that starts in Milwaukee on Monday, promises action on what have become Mr. Trump’s signature issues: It pledges to pump up tariffs, encourage American manufacturing and deport immigrants at a scale that has never been seen before.What it lacks are policy ideas that have long been dear to economic conservatives. The platform does not directly mention fiscal deficits, and, apart from curbing government spending, it does not make any clear and detailed promises to rein in the nation’s borrowing. Other policies it proposes — including cutting taxes and expanding the military — would most likely swell the nation’s debt.The Republican platform also does not mention exports or encouraging trade. And while the document insists that the party will lower inflation, long a pertinent issue for economic conservatives, it fails to lay out a realistic plan for doing that. Chapter One of the document, titled “Defeat Inflation and Quickly Bring Down All Prices,” suggests that oil-friendly policies, slashed government spending, decreased regulation, fewer immigrants and restored geopolitical stability will lower price increases. But few economists agree.In fact, many analysts have said Mr. Trump’s suggestions on the campaign trail so far could lift prices, particularly his proposals to deport immigrants en masse and apply tariffs of perhaps 10 percent on most imports and levies of 60 percent on goods from China.“Measures to reduce migration and to protect the economy through tariffs and trade blockages are all highly inflationary,” Steven Kamin, a former Fed staff official who is now at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said in an interview last week. When it comes to both deficits and trade, he said, there is a “populist dismissal of the prescriptions of academics and elites.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Fed Chair Powell Welcomes Cooling Inflation

    Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, delivered optimistic remarks to Senators as inflation and the job market slow gently.Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, indicated on Tuesday that recent inflation data had given the central bank more confidence that price increases were returning to normal, and that continued progress along these lines would help to pave the way toward a central bank rate cut.“The Committee has stated that we do not expect it will be appropriate to reduce the target range for the federal funds rate until we have gained greater confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent,” Mr. Powell said.He added that data earlier this year failed to provide such confidence, but that recent inflation readings “have shown some modest further progress, and more good data would strengthen our confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward 2 percent.”Mr. Powell delivered the remarks on Tuesday in an appearance before the Senate Banking Committee. While Mr. Powell avoided zeroing in on a specific month for when the Fed might begin to cut interest rates, he also did little to push back on growing expectations that a reduction could come in September. Fed officials meet in late July, but few economists expect a move that early.Mr. Powell said he was “not going to be sending any signals about the timing of any future actions” in response to a lawmaker question about when rate cuts might come.The chair’s congressional testimony came at a delicate moment for the central bank. Fed officials are trying to figure out when to begin cutting interest rates, which they have held at the highest rate in decades for roughly a year now. But as they weigh that choice, they must strike a careful balance: They want to keep borrowing costs high long enough to cool the economy and fully stamp out rapid inflation, but they also want to avoid overdoing it, which could crash the economy too much and cause a recession.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    U.S. Job Growth Extends Streak, but Signs of Concern Emerge

    A gain of 206,000 in June exceeded forecasts. Hiring was concentrated in a few parts of the economy, however, and unemployment rose to 4.1 percent.Halfway through the year, and four years removed from the downturn set off by the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. job engine is still cruising — even if it shows increased signs of downshifting.Employers delivered another solid month of hiring in June, the Labor Department reported on Friday, adding 206,000 jobs in the 42nd consecutive month of job growth.At the same time, the unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a point to 4.1 percent, up from 4 percent and surpassing 4 percent for the first time since November 2021.The gain in jobs was slightly greater than most analysts had forecast. But totals for the two previous months were revised downward, and the uptick in unemployment was unexpected. That has led many economists and investors to shift from having full faith in the jobs market to having some concern for it.“These numbers are good numbers,” said Claudia Sahm, the chief economist for New Century Advisors, cautioning against overly negative interpretations of the report.But “the importance of the unemployment rate is it can actually tell us a bit about where we might be going,” she added, noting that the rate had been drifting up since hitting a half-century low of 3.4 percent early last year.Wage growth slowed in JuneYear-over-year percentage change in earnings vs. inflation More

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    Fed Officials Keep an Eye Out for Cracks in the Job Market

    The labor market has maintained surprising vigor over the past year, but as fewer jobs go unfilled and a growing number of people linger on unemployment insurance rosters, Federal Reserve officials have begun to watch for cracks.Central bankers have recently begun to clearly say that if the labor market softens unexpectedly, they could cut interest rates — a slight shift in their stance after years in which they worked to cool the economy and bring a hot job market back into balance.Policymakers have left interest rates at 5.3 percent since July 2023, a decades-long high that is making it more expensive to get a mortgage or carry a credit card balance. That policy setting is slowly weighing on demand across the economy, with the goal of wrestling rapid inflation fully under control.But as inflation cools, Fed officials have made it clear that they are trying to strike a careful balance: They want to ensure that inflation is in check, but they want to avoid upending the job market. Given that, policymakers have signaled over the past month that they would react to a sudden labor market weakening by slashing borrowing costs.The Fed would like to see more cooling inflation data “like what we’ve been seeing recently” before cutting rates, Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, said during a speech this week. “We’d also like to see the labor market remain strong. We’ve said that if we saw the labor market unexpectedly weakening, that is also something that could call for a reaction.”That’s why employment reports are likely to be a key reference point for central bankers and Wall Street investors who are eager to see what the Fed will do next.For years, the Fed had been watching the job market for a different reason.Officials had worried that if conditions in the labor market remained too tight for too long, with employers fighting to hire and paying ever-rising wages to attract workers, it could help keep inflation faster than usual. That’s because companies with higher labor costs would probably charge more to protect profits, and workers earning more would probably spend more, fueling continued demand.But recently, job openings have come down and wage growth has abated, signals that the job market is cooling from its boil. That has caught the Fed’s attention.“At this point, we have a good labor market, but not a frothy one,” Mary C. Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, said in a recent speech. “Future labor market slowing could translate into higher unemployment, as firms need to adjust not just vacancies but actual jobs.”The unemployment rate has ticked up slightly this year, and officials are watching warily for a more pronounced move. Research shows that a sudden and marked uptick in unemployment is a signal of recession — a rule of thumb set out by the economist Claudia Sahm and often referred to as the “Sahm Rule.” More

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    One Obstacle for Trump’s Promises: This Isn’t the 2016 Economy

    Donald J. Trump slapped tariffs on trading partners and cut taxes in his first term. But after inflation’s return, a repeat playbook would be riskier.When Donald J. Trump became president in 2017, prices had risen roughly 5 percent over the previous four years. If he were to win the race for the White House in 2024, he would be entering office at a time when they are up 20 percent and counting.That is a critically different economic backdrop for the kind of policies — tariffs and tax cuts — that the Republican contender has put at the center of his campaign.Mr. Trump regularly blames the Biden administration for the recent price surge, but inflation has been a global phenomenon since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Supply chain problems, shifting consumer spending patterns and other quirks related to pandemic lockdowns and their aftermath collided with stimulus-fueled demand to send costs shooting higher.The years of unusually rapid inflation that resulted have changed the nation’s economic picture in important ways. Businesses are more accustomed to adjusting prices and consumers are more used to those changes than they were before the pandemic, when costs had been quiescent for decades. Beyond that, the Federal Reserve has lifted interest rates to 5.3 percent in a bid to slow demand and wrestle the situation under control.That combination — jittery inflation expectations and higher interest rates — could make many of the ideas Mr. Trump talks about on the campaign trail either riskier or more costly than before, especially at a moment when the economy is running at full speed and unemployment is very low.Mr. Trump is suggesting tax cuts that could speed up the economy and add to the deficit, potentially boosting inflation and adding to the national debt at a time when it costs a lot for the government to borrow. He has talked about mass deportations at a moment when economists warn that losing a lot of would-be workers could cause labor shortages and push up prices. He promises to ramp up tariffs across the board — and drastically on China — in a move that might sharply increase import prices.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    The Fed’s Preferred Inflation Measure Cools, Welcome News

    The economy appears to be downshifting and price gains are moderating, as Federal Reserve officials creep closer to beating inflation.The Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure continued to cool as consumer spending grew only moderately, good news for central bankers who have been trying to weigh down demand and wrestle price increases under control.The Personal Consumption Expenditures index climbed 2.6 percent in May from a year earlier, matching what economists had forecast and down from 2.7 percent previously.After stripping out volatile food and fuel prices to give a better sense of the inflation trend, a “core” price measure was also up 2.6 percent from a year earlier, down from 2.8 percent in the April reading. And on a monthly basis, inflation was especially mild, and prices did not climb on an overall basis.The Fed is likely to watch the fresh inflation data closely as central bankers think about their next policy steps. Officials raised interest rates sharply starting in 2022 to hit the brakes on consumer and business demand, which in turn can help to slow price increases. But they have held borrowing costs steady at 5.3 percent since July as inflation has slowly come down, and have been contemplating when to begin lowering interest rates.While officials went into 2024 expecting to make several rate cuts this year, they have pushed those expectations back after inflation proved stubborn early in the year. Policymakers have suggested that they still think they could make one or two rate cuts before the end of the year, and investors now think that the first reduction could come in September.Given Friday’s fresh inflation data, the sticky inflation early in 2024 looks “more and more like a bump in the road,” Omair Sharif, founder of Inflation Insights, wrote in note after the release. “However you want to slice and dice it, we’ve made considerable progress on core inflation over the last year.”We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Trump Eyes Bigger Trade War in Second Term

    The former president’s past tariffs raised prices for consumers and businesses, economists say. His next plan could tax 10 times as many imports.In March 2018, a day after announcing sweeping tariffs on metals imported from America’s allies and adversaries alike, President Donald J. Trump took to social media to share one of his central economic philosophies: “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.”As president, Mr. Trump presided over the biggest increase in U.S. tariffs since the Great Depression, hitting China, Canada, the European Union, Mexico, India and other governments with stiff levies. They hit back, imposing tariffs on American soybeans, whiskey, orange juice and motorcycles. U.S. agricultural exports plummeted, prompting Mr. Trump to send $23 billion to farmers to help offset losses.Now, as he runs for president again, Mr. Trump is promising to ratchet up his trade war to a much greater degree. He has proposed “universal baseline tariffs on most foreign products,” including higher levies on certain countries that devalue their currency. In interviews, he has floated plans for a 10 percent tariff on most imports and a tariff of 60 percent or more on Chinese goods. He has also posited cutting the federal income tax and relying on tariffs for revenue instead.Mr. Trump, who once proclaimed himself “Tariff Man,” has long argued that tariffs would boost American factories, end the gap between what America imported and what it exported and increase American jobs.His first round of levies hit more than $400 billion worth of imports, including steel, solar panels, washing machines and Chinese goods like smart watches, chemicals, bicycle helmets and motors. His rationale was that import taxes would revive American manufacturing, reduce reliance on foreign goods and allow U.S. companies to better compete against cheap products from China and other countries.Economists say the tariffs did reduce imports and encouraged U.S. factory production for certain industries, including steel, semiconductors and computer equipment. But that came at a very high cost, one that most likely offset any overall gains. Studies show that the tariffs resulted in higher prices for American consumers and factories that depend on foreign inputs, and reduced U.S. exports for certain goods that were subject to retaliation.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More