If the Federal Reserve seems a bit more relaxed about rate hikes these days than some of its foreign counterparts, a map of inflation around the world helps explain why.
The Fed kept its benchmark interest rate steady at its most recent meeting last week, pausing its campaign of anti-inflation rate hikes (although setting an expectation of more hikes to come,) in contrast to the actions of banks in Europe, which kept on hiking.
A map of inflation by country shows one possible reason the U.S. central bank was more comfortable leaving rates steady—it’s farther along in fighting inflation than many of the 19 individual countries that make up the G-20, a group of the world’s largest economies:
While U.S. residents are feeling the pinch from a 4% annual inflation rate in consumer prices as of May, that’s nothing compared to the 114% rate Argentinians are dealing with, and is well below Western European nations still grappling with inflation in the 6-7% range. It may be little wonder then that the Fed has gotten less aggressive than its European counterparts.
In March 2022, the Fed began raising its benchmark interest rate from the near-zero level where it had been held throughout the pandemic in order to stimulate the economy. The higher fed funds rate, now at its highest since 2007, has put upward pressure on all kinds of borrowing costs including credit cards, mortgages, and car loans, in an effort to discourage borrowing and spending and rebalance supply and demand to contain an inflation rate that got as high as 9.1% last June.
Other central banks around the world, contending with worse inflation than the U.S. is dealing with, have kept on raising rates. The Bank of England surprised markets this week with a 50 basis point rate hike in an effort to quell Britain’s stubborn 7.9% inflation rate, and the European Central Bank kept up the anti-inflation pressure last week when it hiked its interest rate to a 22-year high.
Given the different economic conditions in the U.S., the Fed isn’t likely to be peer-pressured by European banks’ more hawkish approach, economists at Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a commentary this week.
“The influence of other central banks’ actions on the Fed is very limited, especially when U.S. data differ,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon, wrote.