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Feds Powell to testify as economic indicators show mixed signals

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  • Jerome Powell's Congressional testimony comes amid signs of cooling inflation and slowing job growth.
  • The upcoming June CPI data is expected to show further moderation in core inflation.
  • The unemployment rate has risen to 4.1%, indicating a gradual cooling in the job market.

As Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell prepares to testify before Congress this week, the U.S. economy presents a nuanced picture of cooling inflation and slowing job growth. This testimony, scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, comes at a critical juncture as policymakers and market participants eagerly await signals about the future direction of interest rates.

Inflation Trends and Consumer Price Index

Recent data suggests that inflation might be returning to a downward trajectory, a development that Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve have been closely monitoring. The upcoming June Consumer Price Index (CPI) data, set for release on Thursday, is expected to provide further evidence of this trend.

Economists anticipate that the core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, will show a 0.2% increase in June, matching the previous month's rise. As a better indicator of underlying inflation, the so-called core Consumer Price Index (CPI), which does not include the cost of food and energy, is anticipated to increase by 0.2% for the second consecutive month in June. That would be the smallest back-to-back advances since August, which is a pace that the Federal Reserve officials would find more acceptable.

This moderation in core inflation is crucial for the Fed's decision-making process regarding interest rates. A consistent slowdown in price increases could potentially pave the way for rate cuts in the future, although Powell is likely to emphasize the need for sustained evidence before making any policy shifts.

Labor Market Developments

While inflation shows signs of easing, the labor market is presenting a more complex picture. The latest employment report revealed that the unemployment rate has risen to 4.1%, the highest level since late 2021. This uptick, while still historically low, suggests a gradual cooling in the job market.

The Fed's June policy meeting minutes highlighted concerns among several officials about the potential for further economic slowdown leading to higher unemployment. This delicate balance between controlling inflation and maintaining a robust job market is likely to be a key focus of Powell's testimony.

Fed's Stance and Future Outlook

Despite the emerging signs of economic moderation, Powell is expected to maintain a cautious stance during his Congressional appearances. Last week, he acknowledged the recent positive data on inflation but emphasized the need for continued progress. Powell stated on Tuesday of last week that recent data indicate that inflation is beginning to move in a downward direction, but that he and his colleagues would want to see this momentum continue.

This cautious approach underscores the Fed's commitment to its dual mandate of price stability and maximum employment. While some lawmakers may press for quicker action on lowering borrowing costs, Powell is likely to reiterate the importance of data-driven decision-making and the risks of premature policy shifts.

Global Economic Context

The U.S. economic situation doesn't exist in isolation, and Powell's testimony will likely touch on global economic trends. With data releases expected from China, Japan, and several European countries, the interconnected nature of the global economy will be a crucial consideration for Fed policy.

As Jerome Powell prepares to face Congress, the economic landscape presents a mixed picture of cooling inflation and a gradually softening labor market. His testimony will be closely scrutinized for hints about the Fed's future policy direction, particularly regarding interest rates. While the data shows promising signs of inflation moderation, Powell is expected to maintain a cautious stance, emphasizing the need for sustained evidence before considering any significant policy shifts.

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