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Weekly Market Update

Inflation: Late on the Way Up and Down

The Fed's delayed response to inflation led to high policy rates, prompting concerns about economic growth and the timing  of its policy adjustments. 

5 min read
Head of North American Investment Strategy & Research

Let us remember the path that led us to where we are today. The market’s overall attention is on the Federal Reserve’s reaction to the path of inflation and its attempt to orchestrate a scenario where it arrives around 2%. In that process, they are attempting to not truly damage economic growth.

There is general acknowledgment that economic policy acts on a lag, often thought to be around 12-18 months. This means the Fed needs to have an eye on the future economic backdrop, all while they make the policy decisions of today.

Looking into the future is certainly difficult. Case in point is the Fed’s transitory inflation narrative that kicked off a few years ago. Based on these expectations, they expected inflation to essentially soothe itself, which ultimately did not happen and made them extremely late to the inflation battle. As you can see in the chart above, the Fed did not raise policy rates until CPI was already above 8%!

Currently, the Fed communicates its reliance on incoming data. Had they put the same amount of weight on incoming data back in 2021, perhaps they may have begun raising policy earlier, and perhaps we would be having a different discussion today. The current policy rate remains very high and restrictive. The concern remains that in a world of a data dependent Fed, if we see cracks to employment and economic growth, does that mean it is already too late?

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