The Fed has done enough and should pause rate hikes for good, says Wharton School of Business professor Jeremy Siegel in an interview with CNBC. However, though the Fed did not hike rates for June, there’s a chance they could turn hawkish in July, and while July is still pricing in 25 basis points, Siegel believes that might be too high.
Going into the political season, the Fed will be more sensitive to what is happening in the labor market, and if they start to see that market falter, they may just give up on their rate hikes, Siegel posited. But CNBC “Squawk Box” host Becky Quick pushed back on that belief, pointing to the Fed’s single-mindedness on inflation, which is still double where the central bank wants it to be and is moving down more slowly than they’d like. In order to hit the target they want, the Fed might be more willing to put the markets—including the labor market—through more pain. But the Fed has “a dual mandate,” Siegel pointed out, and is subject to political pressure. And indeed, the Fed has been able to be as hawkish as they have been because unemployment has stayed so low. If there’s a negative jobs report in the near future, that will assuredly play into politics and put pressure on the central bank.
Meanwhile, Siegel reminded CNBC, there’s a lag on the indicator that the Fed is using to gauge inflation, particularly in the housing sector, which shows more inflation than we’re likely to get, and the Fed has stated that the second half of the year should look much better in the housing sector. The worst of inflation is probably behind us, Siegel maintains, and it would be “foolish for the Fed to squeeze an extra point or two at the cost of millions of workers out of jobs, particularly in a political year.”