Washington D.C. – Following the U.S. Labor Department’s unemployment report showing slowing job growth in July, government watchdog Accountable.US renewed calls on the Fed to abandon any plans for more interest rate hikes for the foreseeable future. 22,000 fewer Americans found work last month than the month before amid the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates for the 11th time in 16 months to the highest levels in 22 years. The Fed’s misguided decision ignored the difficult financial choices millions of Americans have already faced under its previous rate hikes, as well as dire warnings from a chorus of lawmakers, academics, and economists that the economy could tip towards a recession if the rate hikes continue. While the Fed’s aggressive interest rate strategy has risked millions of American jobs, it has failed to get to the root of the corporate greed epidemic that has fueled inflation.
The more the Fed doubles down on interest rate hikes, the more damage it does to the economy. The Fed’s strategy has not slowed rampant corporate profiteering that’s driving up costs, but it has left Americans with fewer jobs and made it unaffordable for many families to borrow money to buy homes or new cars. If the Fed continues to ignore dire warning signs that higher interest rates invite a recession, they will fully own the downturn.”
Liz Zelnick, Director of Accountable.US’ Economic Security & Corporate Power
MOUNTING ECONOMIC DAMAGE UNDER FED’S PRIOR INTEREST RATE HIKES:
- Nerd Wallet, 7/21: There are signs borrowers are taking on more debt than usual. The average personal loan debt held is $10,344, as of the second quarter of 2022, credit bureau TransUnion found — that’s a 20% increase in average debt since the same time in 2019. Climbing interest rates coupled with a vehicle shortage has pushed the average auto loan balance to more than $20,000, according to July 2022 data from credit bureau Experian. […] The combination of higher balances and higher rates makes it more difficult for borrowers to repay: Delinquency rates for personal loans hit 3.37% during the second quarter of 2022, TransUnion data show. It’s the highest delinquency rate since the start of the pandemic.
- Most Americans Hurt by High Rates: CBNC, 7/21: Most Americans said rising interest rates have hurt their finances in the last year. About 77% said they’ve been directly affected by the Fed’s moves, according to a report by WalletHub. Roughly 61% said they have taken a financial hit over this time, a separate report from Allianz Life found.
- Auto Loan Rejection Surge: USA Today, 7/19: More cars are finally available, and prices are leveling off, but buyers now face borrowing challenges that could keep them from getting a new ride. The Federal Reserve said the rejection rate for auto loans in June rose to 14.2% from 9.1% in February, the last time the survey was taken. That was the highest level since this data was first collected in 2013 and, for the first time, exceeded the application rate. Lenders are pulling back, leery of borrowers who have struggled with high inflation and a surge in interest rates the last couple of years, and have piled on debt to make ends meet.
- Manufacturing Layoffs: Reuters, 7/3: U.S. manufacturing slumped further in June, reaching levels last seen when the nation was reeling from the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but price pressures at the factory gate continued to deflate, a silver lining for the economy. Shrinking activity left factories resorting to layoffs, the survey from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) showed on Monday. […] Risks of a downturn have, however, increased as businesses and consumers deal with the 500 basis points worth of interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve since March 2022, when the U.S. central bank embarked on its fastest monetary policy tightening campaign in more than 40 years.
- ‘Homeownership remains out of reach for many first-time buyers’: Politico, 7/12: Inflation eases, but Fed can’t conquer housing prices: [T]he cost of shelter soared by 7.8 percent in a reflection of post-pandemic rent spikes, part of a trend that has defied the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes over the past year. So even as the Biden administration cheers signs that price rises across the economy have started to cool, homeownership remains out of reach for many first-time buyers, who are already facing a severe lack of supply. […] “Big picture, the Fed tightening has had a huge impact on the housing market; when mortgage rates rose, you saw demand cool,” Zillow senior economist Orphe Divounguy said.
CORPORATE GREED UNFAZED BY FED’S AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY:
- MarketWatch, 8/3: Greedflation is not letting up: The second-quarter earnings season so far is showing that one trend that featured in the first quarter has not gone away. “Greedflation,” or the practice of companies raising prices to protect their profit margins, is alive and well, based on the number of companies that have so far acknowledged raising prices yet again, even as inflation readings have come down and as some acknowledge that their input costs are falling. At the same time, companies continue to emphasize on earnings calls that their customers are showing signs they are weary of higher prices and are shopping more frequently at more stores, while spending less per trip.
- Profits & Investor Handouts Soar Among Top 5 Pharma Companies Amid Industry Price Hikes: A new analysis from Accountable.US found that the five largest U.S. pharmaceutical companies by market cap saw profits rise steadily from FY 2021 to FY 2022, as price increases and acquisitions of competing firms led to generous shareholder handouts at the expense of Americans struggling to afford life-saving medicine. While manufacturers reportedly upped prices on at least 350 drugs in the U.S. in January, Accountable.US’ review found these top drug companies reported combined earnings of $81.9 billion — an over $8.8 billion increase from 2021 — while combined stock buybacks and dividends increased by $4.4 billion and $2.5 billion, respectively.
- Big Food Among S&P 500 Companies That Inflated Prices Despite Bigger Profits and Investor Handouts: A recent Accountable.US report found many of the largest general consumer S&P 500 companies have admitted to benefiting from increased prices as their net profits increased year-over-year and they rewarded shareholders with billions in new shareholder handouts. That includes General Mills, which raised prices as it saw its net income increase 16.5% to $2.7 billion in its FY 2022 and saw continued profit increases in the first nine months of its FY 2023. Additionally, Accountable.US found Tyson––whose executives touted seeing “significant pricing power of our portfolio with a year-over-year increase of 7.6%”––saw its net income increase from $3 billion in FY 2021 to over $3.2 billion in FY 2022 and rewarded shareholders with $1.35 billion in handouts––$652 million more than the previous year, including a 948.5% increase in stock buybacks.
- Largest U.S. Landlords Reaped Huge Profits Amid Double-Digit Rent Hikes: An Accountable.US report from April found the six largest companies represented in the multifamily and single-family rental industry reaped $4.3 billion in net income in FY 2022 — over $1.3 billion more than the previous year – as they imposed double-digit rent increases, charged excessive junk fees, and engaged in “abusive tactics” to evict tenants.