Whatever You Do, Don’t Mention the Interest Rate Pivot

It seems 2023 is arriving early. The race to raise interest rates to levels that have a hope of quelling inflation is entering a less punishing phase. It may be only a slight stretch to say the end of the most rapid monetary tightening in at least a generation is coming into view. Here’s hoping the troubled world recovery still has a pulse by the time central banks down tools.

One consequence of tapping the brakes more gently is that the pause penciled in for next year could take longer to materialize. The delay might be a matter of months. I’ll take it. The global economy has slowed significantly; European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde warned Thursday of the “higher likelihood of a recession” and signaled a less hawkish approach is in the works. Investors took the cue and further pushed down global bond yields.

The blistering series of hikes by the Federal Reserve has led to a dollar surge that’s created great strain in financial markets. Anything that reminds us that 75 basis-point increases aren’t normal is welcome. The Fed is likely to ratchet up its main rate by another three-quarters of a percentage point Wednesday, the fourth consecutive move of that magnitude, and then scale down to smaller increments before wrapping up next year. The dollar has begun to cautiously retreat from giddy heights; a gauge of the greenback’s strength has pulled back from a record. Still dominant, for sure, but not quite so rampant.

Having rushed to get borrowing costs to a point where they constrain the economy, policymakers around the world are beginning to look for an off-ramp. They aren’t ready to stop hiking, let’s be clear — it’s just no longer crazy to speculate that the really big moves are behind us. And it’s important to remember that climbs of more than 25 basis points, let alone multiples of that, are unusual in the past few decades. Monetary policy, as more officials are likely to remind us, works with lags. The frenetic activity of 2022 needs to wash through the system. For that, central banks need time.