Powell's comments came just minutes after he broke the news that the Fed had hiked interest rates by another half percentage point, less than the previous .75 point increases. The benchmark rate is up to 4.5 per cent, the highest level in 15 years
"I don't think anyone knows whether we're gonna have a recession or not, and if we do, whether it's gonna be a deep one or not," Powell said. "It's just not knowable."
In September, economist Steve Hanke suggested in an interview with CNBC that there was an 80 percent chance the US economy would reach a recession, blaming the Fed for having "exploded the money supply" during the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey of other top economists put the probability at around 50 percent.
While announcing the latest rate hike, Powell noted that the Fed "continues to anticipate that ongoing increases will be appropriate in order to attain a stance of monetary policy that is sufficiently restrictive to return inflation to 2 percent over time."
In a statement, the Federal Open Market Committee did not provide an anticipated date by which the 2 percent goal might be reached, only noting that it was being sought "over the longer run."
Powell explained that current data and modelling suggests the interest rate will hit 5.1 percent by the end of 2023, which is half a percentage point higher than was predicted in September. By the end of 2024, the rate is expected to drop to 4.1 percent, falling another percentage point one year later.
"These projections do not represent a Committee decision or plan," Powell warned, "and no one knows with any certainty where the economy will be a year or more from now."
Just this year alone, the Fed has hiked interest rates by 4.5 percentage points.
Powell attempted to show solidarity with the American people, many of whom have struggled amid the rising costs of just about eveything, saying that he and the Fed "understand the hardship" that the struggling economy has caused.
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