WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Federal Reserve should “take a breath” as it looks poised to push interest rates even higher than previously expected after recent data showed less progress than central bank officials had hoped for in lowering inflation, a White House official said on Tuesday.
Asked about Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s comments earlier in the day that it would be appropriate to raise rates more than expected in the face of those setbacks, and possibly at larger steps, the White House official said it was important not to be over-reliant on a single month’s data.
“The White House isn’t going to interfere with the Fed’s management,” the official said. “But we’re dealing with one month of data and people need to sit back and take a breath.”
Powell, in the first of two days of testimony to Congress, earlier had bemoaned the “partial reversal” of the progress Fed officials had thought they had seen in inflation coming down through the end of last year.
A raft of data covering January released over the course of last month, including reports showing more than half a million new jobs, robust consumer spending and stronger-than-expected readings of inflation, showed the economy may not be slowing to the degree Fed officials believe is needed to bring inflation down to its targeted level of 2% annually.
“The Fed is independent and we do not comment on their policy,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about Powell’s remarks Tuesday. She said President Joe Biden “believes that it’s important to give the Fed the space needed to make decisions on monetary policy.”
White House economists believe recent strong jobs data is “evidence that the president’s economic plan is working,” she said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons, Chizu Nomiyama and Andrea Ricci)