As if Jerome Powell didn’t already have enough to worry about, the Federal Reserve chair now has to testify in front of Congress at a time when monetary policy calculations have been completely changed by the Ukraine-Russia war.
Powell is scheduled to appear before a House panel on Wednesday and a Senate committee on Thursday to give his semiannual monetary policy update to U.S. lawmakers.
The crypto community will be watching as the Fed chair will likely address topics like inflation, stablecoins and a potential central bank digital currency (CBDC).
“I think several non-monetary related items will be discussed [including] stablecoin regulatory frameworks, the Federal Reserve’s recent CBDC report, access for fintech and crypto charters to the Federal Reserve’s payment rails, and the potential effect that U.S. sanctions will have on the Central Bank of Russia," said Robert Baldwin, director of policy at the Association for Digital Asset Markets.
Powell could also discuss the risks of cryptocurrency to traditional financial markets. The memorandum for Wednesday's hearing, prepared by staff of the House Financial Services Committee, mentions the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC) annual report from December highlighting “the rapid growth in cryptocurrency and stablecoins in 2021.” One concern was potential “spillover effects” from price volatility and speculation among these digital assets.
With the Ukraine-Russia conflict accelerating, the Fed chair’s testimony comes at a time of great uncertainty. The war changes everything, politically and economically, and in regard to the handling of monetary policy.
It has also become a major talking point in crypto markets.
Early in the conflict, cryptocurrency prices were down, trading in the red across the board, but the market turned on Monday, and bitcoin nearly hit $45,000 on Tuesday. Some analysts say Russians are turning to bitcoin and other cryptos as a safe haven.
At the same time, sanctions imposed on Russia are pushing oil prices up, now over $100 per barrel. Higher gasoline prices could add to inflation, already at a four-decade high.
However, some analysts think the Fed will take a less hawkish stance when it comes to hiking rates amid current geopolitical tensions and the resulting pressure on traditional markets. The CME Group's FedWatch tool currently shows traders see 0% odds of a half-percentage point hike, down from 40% odds last week.
“I do think that the situation in the Ukraine makes it much less likely they will raise by 50 basis points this time around,” PNC Chief Economist Gus Faucher told CNBC.
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