U.S. consumers may have to cope with a recession if they want inflation to finally go away.
At least that’s what JPMorgan’s president and COO, Daniel Pinto, said on Monday.
“I think putting inflation back in a box is very important,” Pinto told CNBC, arguing that the Federal Reserve should continue raising interest rates even as the economy slows. “If it causes a slightly deeper recession for a period of time, that is the price we have to pay.”
Fed officials have raised interest rates five times this year in an attempt to combat inflation, but so far, their efforts haven’t proved as fruitful as economists would have liked.
The most common measure of U.S. inflation, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rose 8.2% from a year ago in September. While that’s nearly a percentage point below June’s 40-year high of 9.1%, it’s still well above the Fed’s 2% target rate.
And core inflation, which excludes more volatile food and energy prices, hit its own fresh 40-year high just last month, lending weight to the argument that inflation is becoming “entrenched” in the economy.
Pinto’s comments are on the hawkish side, and he joins others including former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Queens’ College, Cambridge president Mohamed El-Erian.
But not every top economist and business leader believes that inflation is here to stay, or that the Fed should keep hiking rates. From the billionaire investor Barry Sternlicht to Howard University economics Professor William Spriggs, there’s a growing chorus of critics who argue that inflation is already coming down and the Fed should pause its rate hikes before sparking a major recession.
On Monday, JPMorgan’s President and COO Daniel Pinto, rebuked this new group of dovish Fed watchers, referencing his experience as a child in Argentina as evidence that fighting inflation needs to be a top priority for the Fed.
Argentina has historically dealt with some of the worst inflation in the world. In September, for example, consumer prices soared 83% year over year in the country. And between 1944 and 2015, Argentina’s average annual inflation was 204%.
Pinto recalled memories from his childhood in the South American nation, where he said the value of the Argentine peso changed so rapidly due to inflation that workers could lose up to 20% of the value of their paychecks in a single day if they didn’t rush to change their money into U.S. dollars.
Pinto said that when he was growing up, supermarkets were forced to hire “armies of people” to relabel prices on products on an hourly basis due to inflation.
“At the end of the day, they had to remove all the labels and start over again the next day,” he said.
Pinto’s experience with the devastating effects of runaway inflation have led him to believe that central banks should be aggressive when fighting rising consumer prices, because if they don’t, inflation can become entrenched in the economy like it did in Argentina, or to a lesser extent in the U.S. in the 1970s and 80s.
“That’s why when people say, `The Fed is too hawkish,′ I disagree,” Pinto said.
He went on to argue that the Fed should raise interest rates to a peak of 5%, nearly 2 percentage points above current levels. He said that if they do this, it will increase unemployment and finally bring inflation under control.
Pinto has more confidence in the U.S. economy’s ability to cope with the pain of a recession than he did in the past as well. He said that U.S. households and businesses still have strong balance sheets, there is less leverage in the banking system, and mortgage standards are far higher than they were in 2008.
“Things that triggered problems in the past are in a far better position now,” Pinto said. “That said, you hope nothing new pops up.”
However, Pinto acknowledged that the potential “Big Black Swan,” a term used to describe an unpredictable event with devastating economic consequences, is the spread of geopolitical tensions from Ukraine and Taiwan to the rest of the world.
Finally, he added that he expects the U.S. stock market to continue to fall as rate hikes weigh on corporate profits.
″I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of the market yet,” he said. “When you think about corporate earnings heading into next year, expectations may still be too elevated; multiples in some equity markets including the S&P are probably a bit high.″
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