The nation's money supply resumed its steep upward climb last week, renewing pressure on the Federal Reserve Board to raise interest rates again in an attempt to slow down borrowing.
The Central Bank reported today that the money supply-currency in circulation and check deposits-rose $900 million in the week ended May 9, after falling $1.9 billion the week before.
But for the last four weeks the money supply has been growing at an annual rate of 18.8 percent, far in excess of the Central Bank's target of 4 to 8 percent.
Most economists believe that a rapidly growing money supply contributes to inflation, which has been accelerating sharply in the early months of 1979.
The Fed itself has been cautious about raising interest rates, fearing that it could slow the economy too much and throw the nation into a recession.
After a sharp $4.1 billion increase in the money supply in the week ended April 18, the Central Bank did move to raise market interest rates from 10 percent to 10.25 percent to try to cut down on borrowing.
But as the cost of borrowing money in the open market rose, banks turned to the Federal Reserve itself, which lends funds to member banks today at 9.5 percent-its so called discount rate. The banks then relend the funds to customers.
In the week ended April 25, banks were into the Federal Reserve for $851 million. In the week ended May 16 bank borrowings from the Central Bank had almost doubled to $1.594 billion.
Wall Street analysts, most of whom had anticipated a decline in the money supply again this week, speculate that the Fed will soon have to take the dramatic step of raising the dramatic step of raising the discount rate to curtail banks from borrowing from it. The Feds general reluctance to take steps to raise interest rates, and in turn economic growth is understandable in view of the most recent statistics released in Washington. In April industrial production fell one percent and housing starts declined by two percent. Those figures suggest an economy that could be on the verge of a slowdown-which would mean higher unemployment.
Furthermore, while money growth has been very high in recent weeks, over the last three months it has averaged around 6 percent.
But Leon Gould, an economist with Commercial Credit Corp., said the money figures are deceiving and the April economic figures were distorted by the trucking strike, lockouts and floods.
Gould said that despite the slower rate of money growth in the first three months of the year, there was plenty of credit to be found in the economy.