Probability of recession predicted by former Fed official

Former Fed Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart also predicts what to expect regarding rate hikes

Former Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart noted that he isn’t ruling anything out regarding a potential recession in the coming years, but argued the odds are "low."

Lockhart offered the insight on "Mornings with Maria" on Wednesday responding to economist Nancy Lazar’s argument that a "significant global slowdown" and "a risk of a global recession" is plausible in 2023.

"We are a global economy, many companies are globally based, and the tightening cycle was already set to slow the economy here in 2023 and the Fed would obviously make it worse, but so would Russia, big time, and that’s why we raised the specter from the first time of a global recession possibly in 2023," The co-founder and chief economist of Cornerstone Macro argued on "Mornings with Maria" late last month. "I hope not, but it is what it is."

Lockhart noted on Wednesday that "all kinds of things can happen" given the U.S. is in a "sensitive geopolitical situation" and "there could be a shock in that regard." 

He also pointed out that "the Fed is trying to navigate between keeping a long expansion going and dealing with inflation" and that can impact the economy.  

Still, Lockhart believes the odds of a recession in 2023 are "low."

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Markets have been volatile in anticipation of rate hikes. Last month, all three of the major averages were down with the Nasdaq fairing the worst. 

Global tensions with Russia inching closer to Ukraine contributed to selling last week as well as investor jitters over the possibility of faster rising interest rates to combat inflation.

As for this year, Lockhart predicted that economic growth "will slow," which he stressed "is somewhat natural." 

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He noted that "2021 was a bounce back from the depths of the early stages of the COVID crisis in 2020 so all the numbers are going to show very, very strong growth." 

"I think it’s natural as this whole situation matures that the economy slows down," he continued, stressing that he believes "the economy remains really quite strong" this year. 

"The Fed, the FOMC [The Federal Open Market Committee], is unquestionably going to raise interest rates, try to take the edge off the demand so policy is going to be set in a way to try to deal with the inflation question and slow things a little bit or take a little bit of the froth out of the economy," Lockhart went on to say, stressing that he believes "we are going to continue to see solid growth."

Last week, The Federal Reserve signaled it could "soon" raise interest rates for the first time in three years, paving the way for a March liftoff as policymakers seek to keep prices under control and combat the hottest inflation in nearly four decades. 

Although central bank officials have left rates unchanged since March 2020, they indicated broad support last week during a two-day, policy-setting meeting to begin aggressively normalizing policy, including raising rates amid growing concern over the rapid increase in consumer prices.

A rate increase would mark the first since December 2018. 

Last week, it was revealed that a key measure of annual inflation that is closely watched by the Federal Reserve is running at the hottest pace in nearly four decades as widespread supply disruptions, extraordinarily high consumer demand and worker shortages fuel rapidly rising prices.

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Prices soared by 5.8% in the year through December, according to the personal consumption expenditures price index data released Friday morning, beating out the previous month's increase of 5.7% to become the fastest inflation pace since 1982.

In the one-month period between November and December, prices jumped 0.4% (0.5% when excluding food and energy costs). 

Excluding the more-volatile measurements of food and energy, prices rose 4.9% in December from the previous year – the highest since September 1983. That measurement is the Fed's preferred gauge to track inflation; it marks the ninth consecutive month the measure has been above the central bank's target range of 2%. 

The inflation spike largely reflected surging energy costs, which rose 29.9% from a year ago, and food costs, which were up 5.7% over that same time period. Services inflation rose by 4.2% in December, and goods inflation increased 8.8% – up from the 8.5% pace a month prior, the data shows.

Lockhart said he believes the "likely near scenario" will present two to three rate increases in an attempt to tame inflation. 

"I think the Fed will take a look at the situation and decide whether they want to go further, that will depend very much on the conditions at that time plus the outlook at that time in the future," he told host Maria Bartiromo

He then stressed, that as a result, no one really knows exactly how many rate increases will take place at this stage. He did, however, say that he does believe the first rate increase will happen in March as the Fed had signaled

"I tend to think they [the Fed] will do consecutive meetings, get two or three [rate hikes] under their belt and then pause and evaluate whether they want to go further or not or have to go further or not," Lockhart added. 

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He also predicted that the Fed will "do quarter-point moves," especially because "that has been the pattern for a long, long time." 

"When you start shifting to 50 basis point moves, a lot of misinterpretation can come into play," Lockhart stressed. "I think just sort of out of inertia they will stick with quarter-point moves."

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FOX Business’ Suzanne O’ Halloran and Megan Henney contributed to this report.