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Inflation data could help decide rate cut timetable

WASHINGTON (AP) - After Federal Reserve officials meet this week, a statement they will issue may suggest that they’ve seen meaningful progress on inflation this year - a prelude to eventual interest rate cuts.

Yet it’s hard to say, because they may not know until they begin their meeting. That’s because the latest snapshot of U.S. inflation will be released Wednesday morning, just before the Fed begins the second day of its policy discussions.

One key issue is a sentence the Fed added to its statement on May 1: It said “there has been a lack of further progress” in bringing inflation back to the central bank’s 2% target.

Inflation had come in uncomfortably high in the first three months of this year, dimming hopes that it would continue to steadily cool, as it had in the second half of last year.

In April, though, inflation did slow, if only slightly. And if the May inflation report shows further signs of improvement, it would be an encouraging sign that the policymakers may cut their benchmark rate within a few months. Rate cuts would eventually lead to lower costs for mortgages, etc.

FILE - Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference at the Federal Reserve in Washington, May 1, 2024. On Wednesday, June 12, 2024, the Federal Reserve will end its latest meeting by issuing a policy statement, updating its economic and interest-rate projections and holding a news conference with Powell.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)