Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell gives a press briefing on March 3, 2020 in Washington, D.C.

ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, pushing back on suggestions that loose monetary policy risked unleashing inflation and financial risks in what may be an emerging economic boom, said the central bank would keep its attention focused on getting Americans back to work as a vaccine-related recovery proceeds.

“Monetary policy is accommodative and it continues to need to be accommodative. ... Expect us to move carefully, patiently, and with a lot of advance warning,” before any changes, Mr. Powell said in response to questions from Republican lawmakers about whether a faster-than-expected recovery still required crisis-level assistance.

Mr. Powell, who was testifying before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, acknowledged the potentially fast growth to come as the coronavirus crisis eases and vaccinations expand. Coming updates to the Fed’s outlook may show the economy expanding “in the range” of 6 per cent this year, he said, and overall output conceivably returning in the next few weeks to the prepandemic level.

Story continues below advertisement

Such a rebound would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago, but the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines coupled with federal fiscal support that has bolstered household income has boosted the economic outlook for the year.

When asked what his message was to financial markets, Mr. Powell did not talk about the risks of rising bond yields or a possible spike in inflation, but of the roughly 10 million jobs still missing compared with a year ago, and the need for the U.S. central bank’s policy to stay wide open until that is fixed.

Interest rates will remain low and the Fed’s US$120-billion in monthly bond purchases will continue “at least at the current pace until we make substantial further progress towards our goals ... which we have not really been making,” Mr. Powell said in the hearing, his first since Democrats won the White House and control of both chambers of Congress.

There was little market reaction to Mr. Powell’s remarks, though a recent sharp rise in Treasury bond yields, linked partly to concerns that inflation might surge and the Fed might tighten monetary policy sooner than expected, was largely curbed.

“Powell presumably wants to try to persuade markets that a strengthening economy does not necessarily mean that rates have to rise. Good luck with that when the post-COVID surge in activity becomes clear,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Some Republican senators expressed concerns the combination of Fed asset purchases, a potential vaccine-driven economic boom and passage of another massive stimulus package may drive asset prices to unsustainable levels and spark inflation.

“Be it GameStop, Bitcoin, real estate, commodities, we are seeing quite elevated asset prices and signs of inflation,” said Republican Senator Pat Toomey, who is among those arguing that the Biden administration’s proposed US$1.9-trillion spending plan should be tailored.

Story continues below advertisement

“There are a lot of warning signs that are blinking yellow,” Mr. Toomey said, referring to the recent run-up and crash of video-game retailer GameStop Corp.’s stock and sharp moves in the value of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

Mr. Powell, however, said the focus needed to remain on an economic recovery that is “uneven and far from complete,” and which would need the central bank’s help for “some time” to get back to full employment.

The Fed’s interest rate cuts and monthly bond purchases “have materially eased financial conditions and are providing substantial support to the economy,” Mr. Powell said in his opening remarks to the committee.

“The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved,” the hurdle the Fed has set for discussing when it might be appropriate to pare back support.

Even with Americans being vaccinated at a rate of more than 1.5 million a day and coronavirus caseloads dropping, Mr. Powell and his fellow Fed policy-makers are focused on the nearly 10 million jobs missing from the economy compared with a year ago, and the potent risks still posed by the virus, which has killed more than half a million people in the United States.

While the health crisis is improving and “ongoing vaccinations offer hope for a return to more normal conditions later this year,” Mr. Powell said, “the path of the economy continues to depend significantly on the course of the virus and the measures taken to control its spread.”

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Powell will testify before the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday as part of his mandated twice-a-year appearances on Capitol Hill to provide an update on the economy.

Be smart with your money. Get the latest investing insights delivered right to your inbox three times a week, with the Globe Investor newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies