Fed’s Brainard Says Reducing Inflation Is Top Priority


Federal Reserve governor

Lael Brainard,

the White House nominee to serve as the central bank’s No. 2 official, told Congress that efforts to reduce inflation are the central bank’s “most important task.”

Ms. Brainard, who joined the Fed in 2014, was a forceful advocate last year for ensuring that the central bank didn’t prematurely curtail stimulus as part of a focus on spurring a robust labor-market recovery.

Her comments Thursday morning at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee is the latest sign of how the central bank has firmly pivoted toward fighting inflation. Fed officials have signaled in recent days that they could raise interest rates at their meeting in mid-March.

Ms. Brainard added to those expectations on Thursday, pointing to how the central bank was in the process of ending an asset-buying stimulus program no later than March.

The Fed’s rate-setting committee “has projected several hikes over the course of the year. We will be in a position to do that as soon as asset purchases are terminated,” said Ms. Brainard. “And we will simply have to see what the data requires over the course of the year.”

Ms. Brainard called attention to a swift decline in unemployment. “But inflation is too high, and working people around the country are concerned about how far their paychecks will go,” she said. “Our monetary policy is focused on getting inflation back down to 2% while sustaining a recovery that includes everyone.”

Brisk demand for goods and shortages of intermediate goods such as semiconductors have pushed 12-month inflation to its highest readings in decades. Core consumer prices, which exclude volatile food and energy categories, were up 4.7% in November from a year earlier, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge, well above the Fed’s 2% target.

Ms. Brainard said bottlenecks and other supply-related issues were contributing to much higher prices for certain goods, such as energy and food. But she added that the Fed was prepared to raise rates to cool down demand across the economy more broadly as necessary to reduce inflation.

“We do have a powerful tool, and we are going to use it to bring inflation down over time,” Ms. Brainard said.

Ms. Brainard won bipartisan support when she was confirmed to her current post at the Fed in 2014 and when she became a top Treasury Department official in 2010 during the Obama administration. She also served as an adviser on international economics to President Bill Clinton.

Democrats control the Senate with Vice President

Kamala Harris

able to break a 50-50 tie, and Ms. Brainard is expected to win confirmation to her new post.

Ms. Brainard, 59, has worked closely with Fed Chairman

Jerome Powell

during his tenure leading the central bank. Last November, Mr. Biden nominated Mr. Powell to serve another term leading the Fed after his current one expires next month. The president promoted Ms. Brainard to serve as second-in-command after also considering her as a candidate to serve as Fed chairwoman.

If confirmed, Ms. Brainard would succeed

Richard Clarida,

who is set to resign on Friday.

In a confirmation hearing for his second term as Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell said the central bank would use its tools to tamp down inflation. Photo: Graeme Jennings/Press Pool

Write to Nick Timiraos at nick.timiraos@wsj.com

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