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The Fed's meeting notes: 'Lack of further progress' on inflation

Merkado Barkada
The Fed's meeting notes: 'Lack of further progress' on inflation

The US Federal Reserve (the Fed) [link] released the minutes of the meetings held by the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC), the body charged with making the decision on interest rates, and a reading of the minutes revealed concern by officials that “recent monthly data had showed significant increases in components of both goods and services price inflation”, and that “in recent months there had been a lack of further progress toward the Committee’s 2 percent objective.” The notes also revealed that “various” meeting participants were willing to raise rates further “should risks to inflation materialize in a way that such an action became appropriate.” Some participants “noted signs that the finances of low- and moderate-income households were increasingly coming under pressure”, which the FOMC considered to be a “downside risk to the outlook for consumption”. The FOMC noted the rise in the use of “credit cards and buy-now-pay-later services” and “increased delinquency rates for some types of consumer loans” as evidence of this trend.

MB BOTTOM-LINE: The US situation is not exactly like ours, so I hesitate to draw direct comparisons, but how the FOMC thinks and acts do tend to lead the global narrative on the high-level approach to fighting this inflationary problem. It’s interesting to me to hear the FOMC participants mention the worsening situation of low/middle-income households and point to the use of credit cards and predatory lending services as signals to be used to monitor this problem. This stood out to me because that’s what I’ve been noticing here. The low/middle-income families that I know are all stretched way too thin (and have been for years now), and are juggling multiple forms of informal and predatory debt to make ends meet. We’ve been seeing credit card use statistics skyrocket, and I’ve noted (when I can) the language that sometimes accompanies those reports cheering credit growth which mentions, in a throw-away kind of way, that the use of credit card debt to finance the purchase of groceries and other household essentials is both significant and on the rise. Is this just a continuation of the “k-shaped” recovery from the pandemic? How significant is this downside risk to our own consumption?

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