Federal Reserve Gov. Christopher Waller said Sunday that financial markets seem to have overreacted to the softer-than-expected October consumer price inflation data last week.
“It was just one data point,” Waller said, in a conversation in Sydney, Australia, sponsored by UBS.
“The market seems to have gotten way out in front over this one CPI report. Everybody should just take a deep breath, calm down. We’ve got a ways to go ” Waller said.
Investors cheered the soft CPI print, released Thursday, driving stocks up to their best week since June. The S&P 500 index
closed 5.9% higher for the week.
The data showed that the yearly rate of consumer inflation fell to 7.7% from 8.2%, marking the lowest level since January. Inflation had peaked at a nearly 41-year high of 9.1% in June.
Waller said it was good there was some evidence that inflation was coming down, but noted that there were other times over the past year where it looked like inflation was turning lower.
“We’re going to see a continued run of this kind of behavior and inflation slowly starting to come down, before we really start thinking about taking our foot off the brakes here,” Waller said.
“We’ve got a long, long way to go to get inflation down. Rates are going keep going up and they are going to stay high for awhile until we see this inflation get down closer to our target,” he added.
The Fed is focused on how high rates need to get to bring inflation down, and that will depend solely on inflation, he said.
Waller said “the worst thing” the Fed could do was stop raising rates only to have inflation explode.
The 7.7% inflation rate seen in October “is enormous,” he added.
The Fed signaled at its last meeting earlier this month that it might slow down the pace of its rate hikes in coming meetings.
The central bank has boosted rates by almost 400 basis points since March, including four straight 0.75-percentage-point hikes that had been almost unheard of prior to this year.
“We’re looking at moving in paces of potentially 50 [basis points] at the next meeting or the next meeting after that,” Waller said.
The Fed will hold its next meeting on Dec. 13-14, and then again on Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
At the same time, Powell said the Fed was likely to raise rates above the 4.5%-4.75% terminal rate that they had previously expected.
“The signal was ‘quit paying attention to the pace and start paying attention to where the endpoint is going to be,’” Waller said.
In the wake of the CPI report, investors who trade fed funds futures contracts see the Fed’s terminal rate at 5%-5.25% next spring and then quickly falling back to 4.25%-4.5% by November. That’s well below the levels prior to the CPI data.