Federal Reserve Chair to Testify Before Congress

When Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair, appears before the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday, he will be testifying at a fraught moment both politically and economically, given the recent rise in inflation.

The Consumer Price Index jumped 5.4 percent in June from a year earlier, the biggest increase since 2008 and a larger move than economists had expected. Price pressures appear poised to last longer than policymakers at the White House or Fed anticipated.

In testimony on Wednesday before the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Powell attributed rapid price gains to factors tied to the economy’s reopening from the pandemic, and indicated in response to questioning that Fed officials expected inflation to begin calming in six months or so.

He acknowledged that “the incoming inflation data have been higher than expected and hoped for,” but he said the gains were coming from a “small group” of goods and services directly tied to reopening.

For now, he voiced comfort with the central bank’s relatively patient policy path even in light of the hotter-than-expected price data. He said that the labor market was improving but that “there is still a long way to go.”

He also said the Fed’s goal of achieving “substantial further progress” toward its economic goals before taking the first steps toward a more normal policy setting “is still a ways off.”

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