Fed may need to push policy rate above 4.75% -Kashkari

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari poses during an interview with Reuters in his office at the bank's headquarters in Minneapolis
Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari poses during an interview with Reuters in his office at the bank's headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., January 10, 2020. REUTERS/ Ann Saphir

Oct 18 (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve may need to push its benchmark policy rate above 4.75% if underlying inflation does not stop rising, Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said on Tuesday.

"I've said publicly that I could easily see us getting into the mid-4%s early next year," Kashkari said at a panel at the Women Corporate Directors, Minnesota Chapter, in Minneapolis.

"But if we don't see progress in underlying inflation or core inflation, I don't see why I would advocate stopping at 4.5%, or 4.75% or something like that. We need to see actual progress in core inflation and services inflation and we are not seeing it yet."

Most Fed policymakers expect to need to raise the policy rate, now at 3%-3.25%, to 4.5%-5% by early next year, based on projections published last month and comments made publicly since then.

Kashkari's remarks signal a readiness to go even further.

"That number that I offered is predicated on a flattening out of that underlying inflation," Kashkari said. "If that doesn't happen, then I don't see how we can stop."

So far, data suggests underlying inflation is rising, not falling, despite the Fed's aggressive rate hikes this year.

Based on recent readings of the consumer price index and other data, economists estimate the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, which the Fed watches closely, rose 5.1% last month from a year earlier, compared with 4.9% in August.

The data will be published just a few days before the Fed's next policy meeting on Nov. 1-2.

Last month Fed policymakers penciled in core PCE to register 4.5% at year's end and overall inflation to be 5.4%. The Fed targets 2% overall inflation.

With inflation high, the central bank is widely expected to deliver a fourth straight 75-basis point rate hike when it next meets, and traders of futures contracts tied to the policy rate are betting on another large rate hike in December as well.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Mark Porter, Chris Reese and Sam Holmes

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