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US Federal Reserve Holds Rates Amid Inflation Concerns


The US Federal Reserve recently announced its decision to maintain its benchmark interest rate unchanged, citing a rise in inflation. The Fed indicated that it would closely monitor incoming price data before considering any rate cuts. This decision contrasts with earlier predictions by analysts, who anticipated a rate cut at the Fed’s May 1 meeting and three cuts in total for 2024.


GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Inflation in US
  2. Importance of Signals from the US Fed
  3. Impact on Other Markets, including India

Inflation in US

  • The consumer price index in the US increased by 0.4% month-on-month and surged 3.5% year-on-year, according to data from the US Labour Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics released on April 10.
  • The US Fed Chair emphasized that inflation was still too high and ruled out rate cuts until price growth moves down towards its 2% target.
  • There is uncertainty regarding making more progress in reducing inflation and the future course.

Importance of Signals from the US Fed

Monetary Policy and Its Impact

  • Similar to other central banks like the RBI, the US Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to influence employment and inflation.
  • Policy tools control the availability and cost of credit in the economy, with the federal funds rate being the main tool. Changes in this rate affect other interest rates.

Impact on Borrowing Costs

  • Lower interest rates make borrowing cheaper for households and businesses.
  • Reduced borrowing costs encourage households to spend more on goods and services.
  • Businesses are prompted to borrow for expansion and investment projects.
  • By adjusting interest rates, the Federal Reserve aims to stimulate or slow economic activity, impacting employment levels and inflation.

Impact on Growth Cycle

  • Increased demand for goods and services leads to higher wages and stimulates the growth cycle.
  • While the link between monetary policy, inflation, and employment is not immediate, it plays a crucial role in controlling prices and fostering growth.

Significance for Emerging Market Economies

  • A signal to cut policy rates in the US is positive for emerging market economies, particularly from a debt market perspective.
  • Emerging economies like India typically have higher inflation and interest rates compared to developed countries.
  • Investors borrow at lower US interest rates in dollars and invest in bonds of countries like India in rupee terms to earn higher interest rates.

Impact on Other Markets, including India

Currency Carry Trade Potential:

  • A US Federal Reserve rate cut could widen the interest rate differential between the US and other countries.
  • This enhances the appeal of countries like India for currency carry trade.
  • Currency carry trade involves borrowing from a low-interest currency to purchase a high-interest currency.
  • Goal: Profit from the interest rate difference, which can be significant with leverage.

Boost for Global Economic Expansion:

  • Lower US rates signal a push for growth in the US economy.
  • Positive outlook for US growth is beneficial for global economic expansion.
  • Particularly important amid concerns over China’s real estate crisis and slowing growth.
  • Reduced returns in US debt markets may lead investors to shift towards emerging market equities, boosting foreign investor sentiment.

Currency Market Dynamics:

  • Inflows of funds driven by lower US rates can influence currency markets.
  • Changes in currency valuations may occur, impacting global trade dynamics and financial markets.

Impact on RBI’s Policy Decisions:

  • Likelihood of future rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) partly depends on US Fed’s rate decisions.
  • RBI recently kept the repo rate unchanged at 6.5% for the seventh consecutive time on April 5.
  • Expectations of a rate cut later this year are raised, contingent upon the US Fed’s benchmark rate cuts.

-Source: Indian Express

May 2024