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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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    Fed Raises Interest Rate Half a Percentage Point, Largest Increase Since 2000

    #g-target-rate-recessions-box , #g-target-rate-recessions-box .g-artboard { margin:0 auto; } #g-target-rate-recessions-box p { margin:0; } #g-target-rate-recessions-box .g-aiAbs { position:absolute; } #g-target-rate-recessions-box .g-aiImg { position:absolute; top:0; display:block; width:100% !important; } #g-target-rate-recessions-box .g-aiSymbol { position: absolute; box-sizing: border-box; } #g-target-rate-recessions-box .g-aiPointText p { white-space: nowrap; } #g-target-rate-recessions-335 { position:relative; overflow:hidden; } #g-target-rate-recessions-335 p { font-family:nyt-franklin,arial,helvetica,sans-serif; font-weight:700; line-height:15px; height:auto; opacity:1; […] More

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    Trump Officials Gave Pandemic Loan to Trucking Company Despite Objections

    WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday released a report alleging that top Trump administration officials had awarded a $700 million pandemic relief loan to a struggling trucking company in 2020 over the objections of career officials at the Defense Department.The report, released by the Democratic staff of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, describes the role of corporate lobbyists during the early months of the pandemic in helping to secure government funds as trillions of dollars of relief money were being pumped into the economy. It also suggests that senior officials such as Steven Mnuchin, the former Treasury secretary, and Mark T. Esper, the former defense secretary, intervened to ensure that the trucking company, Yellow Corporation, received special treatment despite concerns about its eligibility to receive relief funds.“Today’s select subcommittee staff report reveals yet another example of the Trump administration disregarding their obligation to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the Democratic chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “Political appointees risked hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds against the recommendations of career D.O.D. officials and in clear disregard of provisions of the CARES Act intended to protect national security and American taxpayers.”The $2.2 trillion pandemic relief package that Congress passed in 2020 included a $17 billion pot of money set up by Congress and controlled by the Treasury Department to assist companies that were considered critical to national security. In July 2020, the Treasury Department announced it was giving a $700 million loan to the trucking company YRC Worldwide, which has since changed its name to Yellow.Lobbyists for Yellow had been in close touch with White House officials throughout the loan process and had discussed how the company employs Teamsters as its drivers, according to the report.Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, was a “key actor” coordinating with Yellow’s lobbyists, according to correspondences that the committee obtained. The report also noted that the White House’s political operation was “almost giddy” in its effort to assist with the application.The loan raised immediate questions from watchdog groups because of the company’s close ties to the Trump administration and because it had faced years of financial and legal turmoil. The firm had lost more than $100 million in 2019 and was being sued by the Justice Department over claims that it had defrauded the federal government for a seven-year period. It recently agreed to pay $6.85 million to resolve allegations “that they knowingly presented false claims to the U.S. Department of Defense by systematically overcharging for freight carrier services and making false statements to hide their misconduct.”To qualify for a national security loan, a company needed certification by the Defense Department.According to the report, defense officials had recommended against certification because of the accusations that the company had overcharged the government. They also noted that the work that the company had been doing for the federal government — which included shipping meal kits, protective equipment and other supplies to military bases — could be replaced by other trucking firms.But the day after a defense official notified a Treasury official that the company would not be certified, one of Mr. Mnuchin’s aides set up a telephone call between him and Mr. Esper.The report indicated that Mr. Esper was not initially familiar with the status of Yellow’s certification. Before the call, aides prepared a summary of the analysis and recommendations of the department’s career officials that concluded that the certification should be rejected. Before those reached Mr. Esper, Ellen M. Lord, the department’s under secretary for acquisition and sustainment who was appointed by Mr. Trump, intervened and requested a new set of talking points that argued that the company should receive the financial support “to both support force readiness and national economic security.” Ms. Lord could not immediately be reached for comment.After the call with Mr. Mnuchin, Mr. Esper certified that the company was critical to national security, and a week later the approval of the loan was announced.Mr. Mnuchin then sent an email to Mr. Meadows that included news reports praising the loan. He highlighted positive comments from James P. Hoffa, the longtime president of the Teamsters union, who according to documents in the report made a direct plea to President Donald J. Trump about the loan.Mr. Esper and Mr. Mnuchin declined to comment. A former Treasury official familiar with the process said the loan saved 25,000 union jobs during an economic crisis and prevented disruption to the national supply chain that the Defense Department, businesses and consumers had depended on. The former official said that because of the terms of the loan, taxpayers were profiting from the agreement.A spokesman for Mr. Esper said that the company met the criteria to be eligible for the loan and emphasized that the report made clear that senior staff at the Defense Department recommended that he certify it. The Treasury Department made the final decision to issue the loan, the spokesman added.The Trump InvestigationsCard 1 of 6Numerous inquiries. More

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    Treasury Aims for Economic Pain on Russia, but Critics Question Effectiveness

    The Treasury Department’s deputy secretary, Wally Adeyemo, has been leading the effort to crack down on evasion and to coordinate with Europe.WASHINGTON — When Russia imposed retaliatory sanctions on top American officials last month, its government targeted President Biden and his top national security advisers, along with Wally Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary, whose agency has been crafting the punitive measures aimed at crippling Russia’s economy.Russia’s move, while wholly symbolic, underscored the central role that the Treasury Department has been playing in designing and enforcing the most expansive financial restrictions that the United States has ever imposed on a major economic power.Those restrictions amount to an economic war against Russia, which is entering a critical phase as the toll of fighting in Ukraine continues to escalate and as the Russian government tries to find ways to evade or mitigate fallout from Western sanctions.In an attempt to prevent Russia from skirting the penalties, Mr. Adeyemo, a 40-year-old former Obama administration official, spent last week crisscrossing Europe to coordinate a crackdown on Russia’s evasion tactics and to plot future sanctions. In meetings with counterparts, Mr. Adeyemo discussed plans by European governments to target the supply chains of Russian defense companies, some of which the U.S. placed under sanctions last week, and he talked about ways the United States could help provide more energy to Europe so European countries could scale back purchases of Russian oil and gas, a Treasury official said.On Wednesday, five days after Mr. Adeyemo returned, the Biden administration announced additional sanctions on Russian banks, state-owned enterprises and the adult daughters of President Vladimir V. Putin.Still, it remains to be seen whether the sweeping penalties aimed at neutering Russia’s economic power are working.Over the past six weeks, the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia have imposed sanctions on large financial institutions in Russia, its central bank, its military-industrial supply chain and Mr. Putin’s allies, seizing their yachts and planes. Imports of Russian oil to the United States have been banned, and Europe is developing plans to wean itself off Russian gas and coal, albeit slowly. This week, the Treasury Department prohibited Russia from making sovereign debt payments with dollars held at American banks, potentially pushing Russia toward its first foreign currency debt default in a century.But thus far Russia has kept paying its debts. Currency controls imposed by Mr. Putin’s central bank, which restricted Russians from using rubles to buy dollars or other hard currencies, along with continuing energy exports to Europe and elsewhere have allowed the ruble to stabilize and are replenishing Russia’s coffers with more dollars and euros. That has raised questions about whether the measures have been effective.“I think we’re grappling with the aftershocks of the shock and awe of the sanctions that were put in place and the recognition that sanctions take time to fully impact an economy,” said Juan C. Zarate, a former assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes. “It’s asking too much of sanctions to actually turn back the tanks, especially when sanctions have been implemented after the invasion.”At a speech in London last week, Mr. Adeyemo promoted the ability of sanctions to change behavior, describing the measures as a part of the equation that adversaries such as Russia need to consider when they violate international norms.“The idea that you can violate the sovereignty of another country and enjoy the privileges of integration into the global economy is one our allies and partners will not tolerate,” Mr. Adeyemo said at Chatham House, a think tank.Yet even the United States, which is not reliant on Russian energy, has wrestled with how far to go with its penalties.Within the Treasury Department, officials have been in a debate about how far to push the sanctions without creating unintended consequences that would rattle the financial system and inflame inflation, which is soaring across much of the world.The impact on the U.S. economy has been a top priority, and Janet L. Yellen, the Treasury secretary, has expressed concern about measures that would amplify inflation. The sanctions on Russia have already led to higher prices for gasoline, and officials are wary that they could bring spikes in food and car prices as Russian wheat and mineral exports are disrupted.“Our goal from the outset has been to impose maximum pain on Russia, while to the best of our ability shielding the United States and our partners from undue economic harm,” Ms. Yellen told lawmakers on Wednesday.As officials considered how to target the ruble, Ms. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, argued against just imposing a ban on foreign exchange transactions, which would prevent Russia from buying dollars. She suggested instead that immobilizing Russia’s foreign reserves — savings that are held in U.S. dollars, euros and other liquid assets — while creating exemptions for Russia to accept payment for certain energy transactions would be the most effective way to inflict pain on Russia’s economy while minimizing the impact on the United States and its allies.At a congressional hearing this week, Republicans criticized those carve-outs for being giant loopholes that allow Russia to earn hundreds of millions of dollars per day through oil and gas sales.Treasury Department officials have been tracking measures that Russia has been using to prop up its economy, such as buying stocks and bonds, and monitoring signs of a growing black market for rubles, which indicates the currency’s actual diminished value. The Biden administration has watched with concern as the value of the ruble has rebounded in recent weeks, undercutting pronouncements made by Mr. Biden that sanctions reduced the Russian currency to “rubble.”“Of course that means that, having said that, when the ruble rebounds for reasons that do not necessarily indicate weakness of sanctions, people will say, ‘Well, see, they failed,’” said Daniel Fried, a former U.S. ambassador to Poland and assistant secretary of state for Europe.A Treasury official said the United States was also keeping a private list of oligarchs whose financial transactions were under surveillance in preparation for sanctions so they could gain a better understanding of the networks of people that helped those individuals conceal their money. The United States has yet to impose sanctions on Roman Abramovich, a Russian billionaire who is already subject to European Union sanctions.Economists at the Institute of International Finance wrote in a research note this week that Russia’s domestic markets appeared to be stabilizing as a result of tight monetary policy, severe capital controls and its current account surplus.Russia-Ukraine War: Key DevelopmentsCard 1 of 4Missile attack. More

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    Yellen Says Aim Is ‘Maximum Pain’ for Russia Without Hurting U.S.

    WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Wednesday that the United States would continue taking steps to cut Russia off from the global financial system in response to its invasion of Ukraine and argued that the sanctions already imposed had taken a severe toll on the Russian economy.She addressed the House Financial Services Committee as the United States rolled out a new array of sanctions on Russian banks and state-owned enterprises and on the adult children of President Vladimir V. Putin. The White House also announced a ban on Americans making new investments in Russia no matter where those investors are based.“Our goal from the outset has been to impose maximum pain on Russia, while to the best of our ability shielding the United States and our partners from undue economic harm,” Ms. Yellen told lawmakers.The measures introduced on Wednesday included “full blocking” sanctions against Sberbank, the largest financial institution in Russia, and Alfa Bank, one of the country’s largest privately owned banks.Sberbank is the main artery in the Russian financial system and holds over a third of the country’s financial assets. In February, the Treasury announced limited sanctions against Sberbank, but Wednesday’s sanctions, a senior Biden administration official said, will effectively freeze relations between the bank and the U.S. financial system.The administration also announced sanctions against two adult daughters of Mr. Putin: Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Putina, who has been living under an assumed name, Maria Vorontsova. Others connected to Russian officials with close ties to Mr. Putin will also face sanctions, including the wife and daughter of Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and members of Russia’s security council, including former Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. The official said those people would be effectively cut off from the U.S. banking system and any assets held in the United States.President Biden said on Wednesday that the new sanctions would deal another blow to the Russian economy.“The sense of brutality and inhumanity, left for all the world to see unapologetically,” Mr. Biden said, describing Russia’s actions as war crimes. “Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable, and together with our allies and our partners we’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”Experts suggested that the latest round of sanctions were unlikely to compel Mr. Putin to change course. Hundreds of American businesses have pulled out of Russia in recent weeks, making new investments unlikely.“The asset freezes on the additional banks aren’t nothing, but this isn’t the most significant tranche we’ve seen to date,” said Daniel Tannebaum, a partner at Oliver Wyman who advises banks on sanctions.Other American agencies are joining the effort to exert pressure on Russia.In a news conference on Wednesday, officials from the Justice Department and the F.B.I. also announced a series of actions and criminal charges against Russians, including the takedown of a Russian marketplace on the dark web and a botnet, or a network of hijacked devices infected with malware, that is controlled by the country’s military intelligence agency.Justice Department officials also celebrated the seizing of the Tango, a superyacht owned by the Russian oligarch Viktor F. Vekselberg, and charged a Russian banker, Konstantin Malofeev, with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions. Mr. Malofeev is one of Russia’s most influential magnates and among the most prominent conservatives in the country’s Kremlin-allied elite. (The indictment renders his surname as Malofeyev.)At the hearing, Ms. Yellen told lawmakers that she believed Russia should be further isolated from the geopolitical system, including being shut out of international gatherings such as the Group of 20 meetings this year, and should be denounced at this month’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. She added that the United States might not participate in some G20 meetings that are being held in Indonesia this year if Russians attended.Ms. Yellen, whose department has been developing many of the punitive economic measures, rebutted criticism that the penalties leveled so far had not been effective, in part because there are some exceptions to allow Russia to sell energy.The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global EconomyCard 1 of 6Rising concerns. More

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    U.S. Levels New Sanctions on Russian Tech Companies

    WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Thursday leveled new sanctions on Russian technology companies and illicit procurement networks that the country is using to evade existing sanctions, expanding the Biden administration’s effort to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine by crippling its economy.The new measures reflect the challenge that the United States and its allies continue to face in enforcing restrictions that have been imposed to cut off Russia’s central bank, financial institutions and oligarchs from the global financial system, and the need to disrupt Russian supply chains and efforts to conceal transactions.“Russia not only continues to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine with its unprovoked aggression, but also has escalated its attacks striking civilians and population centers,” the Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, said in a statement. “We will continue to target Putin’s war machine with sanctions from every angle until this senseless war of choice is over.”Among the 34 organizations and individuals targeted are Serniya and Sertal, Moscow-based companies that illicitly procure dual-use equipment and technology for Russia’s defense sector.The Treasury Department is also imposing sanctions on several technology companies that produce computer hardware, software and microelectronics that are used by Russia’s defense sector. Among them is Joint Stock Company Mikron, Russia’s largest chip-maker.Adewale Adeyemo, the deputy Treasury secretary, foreshadowed the sanctions during a speech on Tuesday, when he said that Russia’s military industrial sector would be the next to face restrictions.“We are planning to target additional sectors that are critical to the Kremlin’s ability to operate its war machine, where a loss of access will ultimately undermine Russia’s ability to build and maintain the tools of war that rely on these inputs,” Mr. Adeyemo said in his speech at Chatham House, an international affairs think tank in London. “In addition to sanctioning companies in sectors that enable the Kremlin’s malign activities, we also plan to take actions to disrupt their critical supply chains.” More

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    Treasury Shifts Cash Among States as Pandemic Housing Aid Dries Up

    The Biden administration pulled back the aid from states and counties with unspent funds and diverted it to four states pressing for more: California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has clawed back $377 million in federal emergency housing aid from states and counties, most of them controlled by Republicans, and redirected the cash to states that have been clamoring for more help, including New York, California and New Jersey.The $46 billion Emergency Rental Assistance Program, first enacted by Congress in 2020, succeeded in preventing a wave of evictions stemming from the downturn caused by the pandemic. But Treasury Department officials, increasingly concerned that evictions might rise after the program winds down, have tried to ensure that none of the remaining funding goes unspent while pushing states to find other funding sources to assist poor tenants.In recent months, White House officials have pressured governors in states with unspent funds to turn over the money to local governments within their states. Now they are going one step further, pulling back cash from states with relatively few tenants — like Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming — or localities that failed to efficiently distribute the aid, including Alabama, Arkansas and several counties in Texas.The money, in turn, is being diverted to four states that burned through their allotted amounts — with $136 million in additional aid headed to California, $119 million to New York, $47 million to New Jersey and $15 million to Illinois, according to a spreadsheet provided by a senior administration official. North Carolina, Washington and other localities will be receiving smaller amounts.New York officials were happy with their windfall but said it fell far short of the $1.6 billion in additional aid requested by the state.“This is better,” said Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat whose district includes the South Bronx, which has some of the highest eviction and poverty rates in the country. “But it’s a pitiful drop in the bucket compared to what we need.”The four states, home to roughly a third of the nation’s low-income renters, have already spent billions in emergency aid paying back rent for tenants at risk of eviction, and they have requested more funding, citing affordable housing shortages and rising rents. In January, their governors — Gavin Newsom of California, Kathy Hochul of New York, Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey and J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, all Democrats — called on Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen to shift cash from low-spending states into their accounts, saying that tenants were “facing an immediate need now.”Treasury officials responded with the reallocation — but made it clear the well was running dry, and states would soon have to make hard choices by using their own revenues, or other federal pandemic relief funding, to bankroll anti-eviction initiatives that might have been buoyed by President Biden’s stalled social spending bill.“The emergency rental program has helped keep millions of families in their homes, reducing the economic costs of the pandemic, and built a nationwide system for eviction prevention that didn’t exist before,” the deputy Treasury secretary, Wally Adeyemo, who has overseen the implementation of the program, said in an interview.“As these funds run out, Treasury is encouraging state and local governments to invest in long-term strategies to prevent evictions and build affordable housing, using other resources,” he added.The program, initiated under the Trump administration and ramped up by Mr. Biden’s team, got off to a sluggish start, as state governments struggled to create new systems to process applications, determine eligibility and distribute the cash.But by late 2021, most local systems were up and running, thanks in part to White House guidelines relaxing verification requirements.The enormous infusion of cash, coupled with federal and local eviction bans, helped prevent or delay about 1.35 million evictions in 2021, according to an analysis published last week by Princeton’s Eviction Lab. Evictions have risen in recent months in some cities but remain below the levels predicted when the pandemic first struck.Most of the aid that the Treasury Department is clawing back comes from states in the West, Midwest and New England with relatively high per capita incomes and low percentages of renters per capita. But part of the money is being pulled out of some of the country’s poorest states, where local officials were unable, for various political and logistical reasons, to disburse the funds.Alabama, for instance, is losing $42 million from a total allocation of about $263 million. A spokesman for the state’s housing agency provided a memo from state housing officials claiming that the Treasury Department “did not consider that Alabama has a lower proportion of renters to homeowners” in making its aid decisions, and that an overall lack of need put “downward pressure” on applications.But applicants and housing groups have complained that the state has made accessing the money difficult, and that a company hired to run the program rejected a large percentage of low-income tenants.West Virginia, which has been slow to distribute a range of federal food, housing and anti-poverty aid during the pandemic, was forced to return $39 million despite recent efforts by state officials to encourage more renters to apply. A spokesman for Gov. Jim Justice of West Virginia, a Republican, said the state was “simply not a renter state,” adding that the program “was clearly designed with Manhattan in mind — not rural America.”And Arkansas, which took months to organize its effort, is giving back $9 million, according to the tally provided by the senior administration official.The Biden administration had hoped to avoid shifting funding across state lines, opting instead to negotiate with governors to send unspent aid to counties and cities in their own states. Late last year, the White House persuaded Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Wisconsin and other states to voluntarily shift about $875 million to the cities and counties in their states that needed the money most.Yet administration officials are less concerned about offending state officials that have lost funding than tamping down the expectations of Democratic governors who want them to claw back even more.Gene Sperling, who oversees the Biden administration’s pandemic relief programs, said that the program was on track to help around five million renters, and that the largest complaint now was that “the funds are moving out so swiftly that there is very little left to be reallocated.” More