US to ‘narrowly avoid’ recession this year and next, says IMF

Policymakers raised interest rates by 75 basis points last week, the most since 1994

IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva in 2021. AFP
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The US economy is likely to slow in 2022 and 2023 but will “narrowly avoid a recession” as the Federal Reserve enacts its rate-tightening plan to curb inflation, the International Monetary Fund has said.

“The policy priority now must be to expeditiously slow wage and price growth without precipitating a recession,” the IMF said in a statement on Friday.

“This will be a tricky task,” as global supply constraints and domestic labour shortages are likely to persist and the war in Ukraine creates additional uncertainties, it said.

The Fed’s plan of quickly getting its benchmark rate to 3.5 to 4 per cent “should create an upfront tightening of financial conditions which will quickly bring inflation back to target”, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in separate comments.

Ms Georgieva made her remarks following the Article IV consultations, the IMF’s assessment of countries’ economic and financial developments following meetings with lawmakers and public officials.

Based on the policy path outlined at the June Federal Open Market Committee meeting, and an expected reduction in the fiscal deficit, the IMF expects the US economy to slow, Ms Georgieva said.

The fund has “also just concluded a very useful set of discussions” with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, she said.

“We are conscious that there is a narrowing path to avoiding a recession in the US,” Ms Georgieva said. “We also have to recognise the uncertainty of the current situation.”

Policymakers raised interest rates by 75 basis points last week — the single biggest move since 1994 — and Mr Powell signalled that another increase either of the same magnitude or of 50 basis points was on the table for July.

The Fed chief and his colleagues have pivoted aggressively to fight the highest inflation in 40 years amid criticism that they left monetary policy too easy for too long as the economy recovered from Covid-19.

They’ve raised rates by 1.5 percentage points this year and officials forecast about 1.75 points of further cumulative tightening in 2022.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, global oil prices have surged, exacerbating inflation that had been stoked by pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions and, especially in the US, the fiscal response to Covid-19.

Noting that American price pressures are now broad-based and go well beyond increases in energy and food prices, Ms Georgieva said, and added that Ms Yellen and Mr Powell “left no doubt” as to their commitment to bringing inflation back down.

Updated: June 25, 2022, 5:01 AM