“But that doesn’t mean that it’s assured, because in order to avoid a downturn in the economy, we will have to have an appropriately calibrated monetary policy. And by all accounts, right now, the Fed has the federal funds rate at a restrictive level, that means above its normal expectation that it believes is in the 2% to 3% range. We think it’s about 2%. But, either way, it’s certainly lower than current levels,” Caldwell said.

As a result, the Fed is staring down the risk that if it leaves rates at this restrictive level for too long, it could cause a recession, especially in sectors such as commercial and residential real estate which are “vulnerable to higher rates,” he said.

He said Morningstar’s economists have believed the Fed would start cutting in March for quite some time now, adding that “markets are coming around to our point of view on this.”

He also acknowledged, however, that the Fed has been “coy” about future cuts for months.

“But they now are opening the door to at least some rate cuts in 2024 with the latest [Federal Open Market Committee] projections and [Fed Chair Jerome] Powell also acknowledging that there are downside risks to keeping rates too high for too long, just as there are risks from keeping monetary policy too loose in terms of inflation being too high,” Caldwell said.

With the once-spiking inflation tamed, it’s time for the Fed to pivot to its other mandate, which is ensuring full employment, which will entail rate cuts, he said.


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