Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said he supports raising interest rates by a full percentage point by the start of July — including the first half-point hike since 2000 — in response to the hottest inflation in four decades.
“I’d like to see 100 basis points in the bag by July 1,” Bullard, a voter on monetary policy this year, said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Thursday. “I was already more hawkish but I have pulled up dramatically what I think the committee should do.”
For now, Bullard’s plan involves spreading the increases over three meetings, shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet starting in the second quarter, and then deciding on the path of rates in the second half based on updated data.
He said he was undecided on whether the March meeting should begin with 50 basis points, and would defer to Fed Chair Jerome Powell in leading the discussion. Powell, at a press conference in January, didn’t rule out the idea of such a move.
Bullard spoke after the January consumer price index report showed a 7.5% annual increase, the biggest since 1982. Gains were broad-based, extending beyond food and energy to categories including household furnishings and health insurance.
Yields on two-year Treasuries, which had risen after the CPI print, climbed further after Bullard’s comments to reach about 1.56%, the highest since January 2020, while 10-year yields rose to about 2.04%, the highest since August 2019. Fed swaps now show a full point of tightening over the next three meetings.
The report “shows continued inflationary pressure in the U.S.” and “is concerning for me and for the Fed,” Bullard said. “You have got the highest inflation in 40 years and I think we are going to have to be far more nimble and far more reactive to data.”
The St. Louis Fed chief raised the possibility of the Fed at some point considering a move in between scheduled meetings. For now, he highlighted that policy makers are focused on the March 15-16 meeting, and have committed to finishing asset purchases before kicking off rate increases.
“There was a time when the committee would have reacted to something like this to having a meeting right now and doing 25 basis points right now,” Bullard said. “I think we should be nimble and considering that kind of thing.”