At the FOMC press conference on March 20, 2024, Jerome Powell gave an opening statement and answered questions from reporters. 

In a nutshell, Powell spoke on the strength of the current job market and the fact that inflation, though making progress toward the 2% goal, is still too high to justify a cut to the federal funds rate at this point. While the Fed held interest rates steady this month, it signaled three quarter-percentage point cuts by the end of 2024.

Powell drove home the importance of reaching the Fed’s inflation goal sustainably, irrespective of how the timing of future rate cuts could impact the housing market. 

Keep reading for the direct timestamps and transcripts for every time Powell mentioned housing during the press conference. 

And be sure to tune into today’s Hot Sheet, where Byron Lazine broke it all down. 

Comments on Housing from Powell’s Opening Statement

Powell’s opening statement mentioned housing only twice, first to acknowledge the suppression of the housing market since the sharp increase in mortgage rates in 2022 and then in reference to inflation’s impact on consumers least able to meet the rising cost of housing, among other necessities. 

01:43“Activity in the housing sector was subdued over the past year, largely reflecting high mortgage rates.”

04:08“The Fed’s monetary policy actions are guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people.  My colleagues and I are acutely aware that high inflation imposes significant hardship as it erodes purchasing power, especially for those least able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing, and transportation.  We are strongly committed to returning inflation to our 2 percent objective.”

Housing-related Comments from Q&A Segment

10:20 – Question from Rachel Siegel, Washington Post:

“You and others have been saying that relief on housing inflation is coming, but it still hasn’t shown up meaningfully in the CPI or the PCE. Does that challenge your assumption about when the shift will finally break through?” 

Jerome Powell:

“So, I think there’s some confidence that the lower market rent increases that we’re seeing will show up in measures of housing services inflation over time. There’s a little bit of uncertainty about when that will happen but there’s real confidence that they will show up eventually, but again, uncertainty about the exact timing of that.”

11:04 Follow-up question from Rachel Siegel:

“And will you be able to get overall inflation down to target if housing doesn’t break through quickly, and does that affect the timing for eventual cuts this year?” 

Jerome Powell:

“We will get aggregate inflation down to 2% over time. We will. And I would assume that what we’ll continue to see is goods prices coming into a new equilibrium where they’re going down perhaps not as quickly as they have been earlier this year—where housing services inflation will come back down as current market rents are suggesting will happen and where non-housing services will move back down. Some combination of those three things, and it may be different from the combination we had before the pandemic, will be achieved and will bring inflation back down to 2% sustainably.”

22:15 – Question from Michael McKee, Bloomberg Radio & TV:

“…also housing prices have been sort of a Godot this cycle in that you keep expecting them to go down and they don’t. How does the Committee see this playing out forward since you’ve raised your inflation forecast?”

Jerome Powell:

“So, I see the Committee’s looking at the two months of data and asking the same question you’re asking and saying, ‘We’re just going to have to see what the data show.’

“As I mentioned, you can look at January, which is very high reading…and I think many people did see the possibility of seasonal adjustment problems there, but again…you got to be careful about dismissing the parts of the data that you don’t like. Then February wasn’t as high, but it was higher, so the question is what are we going to see? You know we tend to see a little bit stronger—this is in the data—a little bit stronger inflation in the first half of the year, a little bit less strong later in the year.

“We’re going to let the data show. I don’t think we really know whether this is a bump on the road or something more. We’ll have to find out. In the meantime, the economy is strong, the labor market is strong, inflation has come way down, and that gives us the ability to approach this question carefully and feel more confident that inflation is moving down sustainably to 2% when we take that step to begin dialing back our restrictive policy.”

Watch today’s episode of the Hot Sheet to hear Byron’s full breakdown of the FOMC’s decision and Jerome Powell’s comments.