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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If you believe a ground hog can predict the weather, we should expect an early spring:  Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow when he emerged from his winter home this month.  On the other hand, this famous Philadelphia rodent is almost always wrong, so perhaps it’s best not to put away the parkas and gloves just yet.  We might also hope the housing statistics will be an equally inaccurate predicter of the market outlook, because early indicators have not been positive. 

An increasingly  jittery public, anxious for some good news, got a solid dose of it in the December employment report:  Employers added 312,000 workers to their payrolls for the month, blowing well past the 182,000 jobs analysts were predicting, and extending the steak of consecutive monthly job gains to 98 months - -the longest on record. 

“Patience” was the byword for the Federal Reserve, driving a unanimous decision by the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee to stand pat on interest rates for now, and producing a decidedly less hawkish tone in the statement released after the committee’s January meeting.  

‘Tis the season for economic forecasts  and we’ve rounded up several for you to round out our summary of the December economic reports. Beginning with where we are now.