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Fed's Kashkari says it's 'reasonable' to predict December rate cut

Milken Conference 2024 in Beverly Hills

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) -Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari on Sunday said it's a "reasonable prediction" that the U.S. central bank will cut interest rates once this year, waiting until December to do it.

"We need to see more evidence to convince us that inflation is well on our way back down to 2%," Kashkari said in an interview with CBS' "Face the Nation" program.

The Fed last week held its benchmark policy rate in the 5.25%-5.50% range, where it has been since last July, to keep continued pressure on the economy so as to cool inflation. It also published projections that showed the median forecast from all 19 U.S. central bankers was for a single interest rate cut this year.

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"We're in a very good position right now to take our time, get more inflation data, get more data on the economy, on the labor market, before we have to make any decisions," Kashkari said. "We're in a strong position, but if you just said there's going to be one cut, which is what the median indicated, that would likely be toward the end of the year."

Kashkari, who has been more cautious about the possibility of easing monetary policy than many of his colleagues, did not say how many rate cuts he personally expects.

He said he has been surprised by how well the U.S. job market has performed even as the Fed raised borrowing costs aggressively in 2022 and 2023, but that he expects more cooling ahead.

"I hope it's modest cooling, and then we can get back down to more of a balanced economy," he said.

Inflation by the Fed's targeted measure, the year-over-year change in the personal consumption expenditures price index, registered 2.7% in April. The Fed has a 2% target.

The unemployment rate in May ticked up to 4%, the highest since just before the Fed launched its rate hiking campaign in March 2022 but still below what most of its policymakers see as sustainable.

Asked about the barrier high borrowing costs pose for people trying to buy a home, Kashkari said the best thing the Fed can do for the housing market is to bring inflation back down to target.

"If we simply cut interest rates to try to support home ownership right now, that would probably push up the price of houses, and it actually wouldn't lead to any better affordability," he said.

"The best thing we can do is do our job - get inflation back down to our target - and then, hopefully, the supply side of the economy can step in to build the homes that Americans need."

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Paul Simao)