Powell’s pivotal speech Friday could see a marked shift from what he’s done in the past

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Powell’s pivotal speech Friday could see a marked shift from what he’s done in the past

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services June 21, 2023 in Washington, DC. Powell testified on the Federal Reserve's Semi-Annual Monetary Policy Report during the hearing.

Since he took over the chair's position at the Federal Reserve in 2018, Jerome Powell has used his annual addresses at the Jackson Hole retreat to push policy agendas that have run from one end of the policy playing field to the other.

In this year's iteration, many expect the central bank leader to change his stance so that he hits the ball pretty much down the middle.

With inflation decelerating and the economy still on solid ground, Powell may feel less of a need to guide the public and financial markets and instead go for more of a call-'em-as-we-see-'em posture toward monetary policy.

"I just think he's going to play it about as down the middle as possible," said Joseph LaVorgna, chief economist at SMBC Nikko Securities America. "That just gives him more optionality. He doesn't want to get himself boxed into a corner one way or another."

If Powell does take a noncommittal strategy, that will put the speech in the middle of, for instance, 2022's surprisingly aggressive -- and terse -- remarks warning of higher rates and economic "pain" ahead, and 2020's announcing of a new framework in which the Fed would hold off on rate hikes until it had achieved "full and inclusive" employment.

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