Top economist El-Erian says the Fed could have avoided 'higher, faster, longer-lasting' rates and elevated recession risk if it had acted sooner



1 week ago 47
  • The Fed raised interest rates by 75 basis points on Wednesday, marking its third straight rate hike.
  • It signaled more hikes ahead to tame inflation, but the move risks tipping the economy into recession.
  • El-Erian said higher, faster hikes and elevated recession risks could have been avoided.

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Higher interest rates that rise faster and last longer, as well as the elevated risk of an economic recession, could have been avoided if the Federal Reserve had acted sooner to curb inflation, top economist Mohamed El-Erian said on Wednesday.

His comments came after the Fed on Wednesday hiked interest rates by 0.75 percentage points for the third time in a row to tame rising prices. Higher interest rates discourage borrowing, thus cooling demand throughout the economy, but the move risks slowing growth so much the economy could slide into a recession.

"Rates that go higher, faster and stay there longer" and the elevated risk of a recession could have been avoided had the Fed responded in a timely fashion to cool inflation, El-Erian wrote in a tweet on Wednesday after the Fed's rate decision announcement.

—Mohamed A. El-Erian (@elerianm) September 21, 2022

The Fed has already hiked rates five times this year, with larger increases taking place at a faster pace over the months, as it races to quell inflation, which hit a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. Inflation cooled in the months following, but was still high at 8.3% in August.

"Rather than lead markets in battling inflation, the Fed has been forced to follow them," El-Erian wrote in a separate opinion piece for CNN published on Wednesday ahead of the central bank's rate announcement. "Yet, because it has been so late in responding, the Fed will be aggressively hiking into a weakening domestic and global economy."

The situation has caused many to lose faith in the central bank, and there is risk that politicians, companies, and households could think of the Fed "as part of the problem and not part of the solution," added El-Erian, who is the chief advisor to Allianz and the president of Queens' College at Cambridge University in the UK. He was previously the CEO of US bond-fund giant Pimco.

"There is an increasing number of economists warning that the Fed will tip the US into recession; and a growing number of foreign policymakers complaining that the world's most powerful and systemically important central bank is pulling the rug out from under an already fragile global economy," he wrote on CNN.

Jerome Powell, the current Fed chair, admitted in a congressional hearing in March that the central bank should have acted earlier.

"Hindsight says we should have moved earlier," Powell said, per Bloomberg. "It's just taking so much longer for the supply side to heal than we thought."

Last month, Powell warned that cooling inflation "will bring some pain to households and businesses."

The Fed did not respond to Insider's request for comment that was sent outside regular business hours.

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