Fed Officials Say Three Rate Cuts a Reasonable Baseline for 2024

Two Federal Reserve officials who vote on monetary policy decisions this year said they still expect the US central bank to cut rates three times in 2024, though they’re in no rush to begin lowering borrowing costs.

San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said the three rate cuts penciled in by Fed officials last month are a reasonable expectation, though there’s no urgency to make adjustments at the moment.

“I think that is a very reasonable baseline,” Daly said Tuesday during an event in Nevada. For now, “Growth is going strong, so there’s really no urgency to adjust the rate,” she said.

Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, speaking to reporters after a separate event Tuesday, said she still sees three rate cuts as likely appropriate this year, but that “it’s a close call” on whether fewer will be needed. Mester said earlier that she wants to see more evidence inflation is headed lower before beginning to cut rates.

“It really depends on what happens in the economy and how it evolves,” Mester said. “Are those early readings that we got in inflation so far this year, are they saying that the disinflation process is stalling or is it going to be that those are sort of like a detour on the road and we’re back on that downward path?”

Fed officials were in widespread agreement at their March 19-20 policy meeting that it would be appropriate to begin cutting their benchmark rate at some point in 2024, with the median participant narrowly estimating three reductions this year, according to projections published after the gathering.

The target range for the rate is currently 5.25% to 5.5%, and investors are putting roughly even odds on an initial cut in June, according to futures. They’re also now pricing in about 70 basis points of easing in 2024, suggesting they see a risk of fewer than three cuts.

Fed officials are split: Nine now see two or fewer rate cuts this year, their projections show, after disappointing inflation data at the start of 2024.

A report Friday showed that the core personal consumption expenditures price index — which excludes food and energy costs — rose 0.3% in February after climbing 0.5% in the previous month, marking its biggest back-to-back gain in a year. The measure is up 2.8% from a year earlier, still above the Fed’s 2% target.

Mester said the higher-than-hoped inflation readings from the beginning of the year largely just confirmed the bumpy nature of disinflation. She said she still believes price growth will continue to cool toward the Fed’s 2% goal, just at a slower pace than last year.

(Updates with additional context and Mester comments starting in first paragraph.)

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