More than the US Federal Reserve’s latest rate hike of yet another 75 basis points, it was Fed chair Jerome Powell’s comments that startled markets, causing emerging market currencies to plunge, India’s rupee included. In his post-policy question-and-answer session, Powell reiterated the Fed’s commitment to price stability, specifically its need to crush inflation to 2%, so often that he sounded anxious to squash any scope for speculation over grim growth data making it go easy. The Fed “will keep at it until the job is done,» he said, as if to invoke former Fed chief Paul Volcker’s memoir Keeping at It. The Volcker-led Fed had shown how monetary policy could cap inflation if it was earnestly determined to do it. By spelling out today’s crisis in terms of demand and supply being out of whack, with the former in need of reduction for general prices to stabilize, Powell signalled the same hard-nosed resolve. Pain postponed, he argued, will be worse. The Fed’s so-called dot plot now shows officials expect rates to reach 4.4% by the end of 2022 and 4.6% by the end of 2023. The US economy needs to slow sharply for it to secure the dollar’s internal value and help sustain its global dominance.
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