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Powell to face Capitol Hill questions on economy and interest rate plans

Fed chair Jerome Powell heads to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to begin two days of testimony on the economy and plans concerning interest rates.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell begins two days of hearings before Congress on Wednesday.

Powell's appearance comes after last week's policy meeting in which the Fed paused its rate hike run for the first time in 11 meetings.

The 18 members of its policy committee predicted two more interest rate hikes this year – one more than analysts had expected – to fight inflation, which they now think will be higher next year than previously anticipated.

Powell's testimony will begin with the House Financial Services Committee.

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The major question lawmakers will want to know will be how far and how fast will the Fed raise its key interest rate from here?

After last week's meeting, Powell explicitly said no decisions had been made about whether to raise the Fed's benchmark rate at its next meeting in late July. 

However, based on economist and policymakers' forecasts, a rate hike next month is all but assured.

The Fed's plan to keep rates unchanged for now allows additional time to further assess the impact that the rate hikes have had on the economy before deciding on its next moves.

FED OFFICIALS SIGNAL RATES MAY NEED TO GO HIGHER TO FIGHT INFLATION

It has raised its benchmark rate by a substantial five percentage points in barely more than a year – the fastest pace of rate hikes in four decades.

"Given how far we have come, it may make sense for rates to move higher but at a more moderate pace," Powell said. "It’s just the idea that we’re trying to get this right."

The interest hikes have impacted consumers in the form of higher home and auto loans, credit cards and business borrowing. The goal has been to cool inflation by slowing spending and hiring.

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"There is a path to getting inflation back down to 2% without having to see the kind of sharp downturn and large losses of employment that we’ve seen in so many past instances," the Fed chair said. "It’s possible."

Yet both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate may express misgivings about whether the Fed can pull it off.

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Powell may also face questions concerning the stability of the banking system in the aftermath of three bank failures since March.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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