Fed’s High Wire Inflation Fighting Effort Risks Triggering a Recessionary Fall

Imagine a high-wire act performed without a net.  That describes the Federal Reserve’s effort to curb inflation without crashing the economy.  Success will bring applause and relief; failure, a brief downturn, at best, with a prolonged recession the worst case outcome. 

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The forces driving the economy are no longer financial; they are primarily medical.  Concerns about the impact of the coronavirus, which continues to spread in the U.S. and abroad, have replaced speculation about whether the Fed will slash interest rates – which it did recently, announcing an “emergency” quarter-point reduction that analysts predict will be followed soon by another one, in an effort to forestall the panic that is gripping financial markets.

Consumers are feeling better about the housing market, and the housing market appears to be feeling better about itself.

What’s up with the home ownership rate?  More precisely, why isn’t it up?  After sinking in the aftermath of the “Great Recession,” the rate has  rebounded from the  low point of  62.9 percent four years ago, to 65.1 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, according to a Census Department report. 

Analysts reached for superlatives – “blowout” and “blockbuster” among them ─ to describe November’s surprisingly strong employment report.  Employers added 266,000 workers to their payrolls, blowing well past the 187,000 economists had predicted.  October’s anemic 128,000 gain was revised upward slightly, to 156,000, and the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.5 percent.  Average hourly earnings increased by 7 cents – a 3.1 percent year-over-year gain.