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Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said on Friday that resilient economic growth is giving the central bank the flexibility to be patient before cutting interest rates.

Fed officials raised interest rates sharply from early 2022 to mid-2023, and they have left them at about 5.3 percent since last July. That relatively high level essentially taps the brakes on the economy, in part by making it expensive to borrow to buy a house or start a business. The goal is to keep rates high enough, for long enough, to wrestle inflation back under control.

But price increases have cooled notably in recent months — inflation ran at 2.5 percent in February, a report on Friday showed, far below its 7.1 percent peak in 2022 for that gauge and just slightly above the Fed’s 2 percent goal. Given that slowdown, officials have been considering when and how much they can cut interest rates this year.

While investors were initially hopeful that rate cuts would come early in the year and be substantial, Fed officials have recently struck a cautious tone, maintaining that they want greater confidence that inflation was under control. Mr. Powell reiterated that message on Friday.

“We can, and we will be, careful about this decision — because we can be,” Mr. Powell said, speaking in a question-and-answer session with the “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal in San Francisco. “The economy is strong: We see very strong growth.”

Friday’s Personal Consumption Expenditures report showed that consumers are still spending at a rapid clip. Recent hiring data has also remained solid. In all, the economy seems to be holding up even with the Fed’s high interest rates.

“That means that we don’t need to be in a hurry to cut,” Mr. Powell said. “It means we can wait and become more confident that, in fact, inflation is coming down to 2 percent on a sustainable basis.”

The Fed is trying to balance two risks: On one hand, officials do not want to keep interest rates too high for too long, risking an unnecessary recession. On the other, they do not want to cut interest rates too early, before inflation is fully under control.

If high inflation lingers for years on end, it can become embedded in the economy as people and companies adjust their behavior, making it even harder to stamp out in the long run.

Investors currently expect that the Fed might begin lowering rates in June. Fed officials projected last week that they were likely to make three quarter-point rate cuts before the end of this year.

While the economy looks strong for now, Mr. Powell suggested that if the job market began to show signs of cracking, the Fed might react.

“If we were to see unexpected weakness in the labor market,” Mr. Powell said, “then that’s something we would be looking at carefully, and could draw a response as well.”

The Fed chair said that while there is always a chance of a recession, he did not think that the risk was high at the moment.

“There’s no reason to think that the economy is in a recession or is at the edge of one,” Mr. Powell said.

“But — humility,” he added.

And Mr. Powell repeatedly alluded to the elephant in the room as the nation barrels toward November’s presidential election: the politics of interest rate cuts. There is a risk that the central bank could be criticized for cutting borrowing costs in the run-up to the election, since doing so can help markets and the economy and can be perceived as favoring the incumbent.

Former President Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has already criticized the Fed for being political and said that Mr. Powell was “going to do something to probably help the Democrats.” Mr. Trump first elevated Mr. Powell to the role of Fed chair, though he has since been reappointed to the role by President Biden.

The Fed is independent of the White House, and its officials stress that they set policy with an eye on the economy, not politics. Mr. Powell did not specifically reference Mr. Trump’s comments, but he did reiterate the Fed’s dedication to independence on Friday.

“Integrity is everything,” Mr. Powell said. “We’re working to serve all Americans, not any particular set of Americans or political parties or leaders.”

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