Austerity Nears Conclusion: Bernanke Predicts July Rate Hike as Potentially the Last


Former Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, has hinted that the widely anticipated rate hike next week could potentially mark the end of the current tightening cycle. In a recent webinar, Bernanke stated that while the Fed is likely to raise rates by 25 basis points at its upcoming meeting, the July rate hike may signal a concluding move in the tightening process. This article explores Bernanke’s insights and the prevailing expectations among investors and economists regarding the future of rate hikes and inflation.

1. High Expectations for July Rate Hike

The federal funds futures market reflects strong investor expectations of a rate hike at the July 25-26 meeting. Market participants foresee an almost certain increase in rates, with little likelihood of further hikes beyond this point. A media survey also reveals that most economists anticipate a rate increase next week, signifying the culmination of a 16-month cycle of aggressive anti-inflationary actions, the most decisive in four decades.

2. Inflation’s Path to Decline

As a senior adviser at Pacific Investment Management Co, Bernanke forecasts a gradual decline in inflation over the next six months. He expects inflation to settle at a range of 3 percent to 3.5 percent, citing the easing of rent increases and the decline in auto prices as contributing factors. Bernanke believes that by early next year, inflation will be slightly above 3 percent, and the Fed will strive to achieve its 2 percent target over time.

3. Fed’s Preferred Inflation Gauge

The Fed closely monitors the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index as its preferred inflation gauge. The index registered a 3.8 percent year-on-year increase in May. However, Fed officials pay more attention to the core PCE price index, which excludes food and energy costs and provides a clearer picture of the underlying trend. The core PCE index surged by 4.6 percent, raising inflation concerns.

4. Waiting for Job Market Balance

Bernanke suggests that the Fed will be cautious in its approach to declare victory over inflation. The central bank seeks an improvement in the supply-demand balance within the job market before making conclusive statements. Despite a decline in job openings, the number of unemployed individuals still corresponds to about 1.6 job openings, indicating a robust labor market.

5. Possibility of Economic Slowdown

While tackling inflation, the U.S. may encounter an economic slowdown as part of the cost of curbing rising prices. Bernanke emphasizes that any potential recession is likely to be mild. He foresees a slight increase in unemployment and a deceleration in economic growth but remains confident that a severe recession is improbable in the coming year.


Ben Bernanke’s remarks suggest that the Fed’s rate hike in July may be the culmination of the current tightening cycle. As inflation shows signs of receding, the central bank remains vigilant in achieving its 2 percent target. The anticipation of a potential economic slowdown accompanies the pursuit of price stability. While challenges persist, economists and investors closely monitor the Fed’s actions and their impact on the U.S. economy in the coming months.


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