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After Fed’s Assembly, the Focus Will Be on Jerome Powell: Reside Enterprise Updates

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The Federal Reserve meets in Washington on Wednesday, and while it is widely expected to leave interest rates near zero while continuing to buy about $120 billion in government-backed bonds each month, Chair Jerome H. Powell could stage an interesting news conference afterward.

Mr. Powell answered many of the urgent monetary policy questions of the day at an appearance on Jan. 14, making it clear that interest rates will rise “no time soon” and that the Fed will “let the world know” when it is starting to think about slowing down its mass Treasury and mortgage-debt bond buying.

“His goal will be to preserve the status quo — it’s too soon for the message to change,” Roberto Perli and Benson Durham at Cornerstone Macro wrote in a note previewing the meeting.

That could leave the door open for a suite of more thematic questions. The Fed’s policy statement comes out at 2 p.m., and the webcast question-and-answer session starts at 2:30.

Mr. Powell could be asked to give his assessment on whether a bubble is building in stocks, digital currency, house prices — everything, basically — and, if so, what the Fed can do about it. Low interest rates and bond-buying have the effect of pushing investors into riskier assets, and the Fed underlined in its revised policy framework last year that it keeps a wary eye on financial risks.

The Fed chair might also need to take on the question of inequality. As asset prices boom, the wealthy people who disproportionately own stocks are becoming paper millionaires, billionaires, multibillionaires and so on even as the working class struggles with high pandemic-era unemployment and cars continue to line up at food banks. Mr. Powell has typically pushed back on the idea that monetary policy — which also lowers unemployment and sets the stage for higher wages in the longer run — can be boiled down to having one simple effect on income and wealth distribution.

Finally, Mr. Powell might face queries about his own future. He was appointed chair by President Donald J. Trump, and his four-year term expires in early 2022. It is unclear whether President Biden will reappoint him or whether Mr. Powell will seek another term.

Richard Zaro started his sandwich shop in a hotel kitchen to save on expenses.
Credit…Landon Nordeman for The New York Times

The hotel industry, where occupancy rates are still down 30 percent from a year ago, is getting in on the ghost kitchen trend.

Ghost kitchens, also called digital kitchens, are cooking facilities that produce food only for delivery or takeout. Demand for the concept is booming, Debra Kamin reports in The New York Times.

The pandemic has opened the business model to more entrepreneurs. To turn his chicken cutlet sandwich concept into a business, Richard Zaro started renting space in July at the Four Points by Sheraton Midtown near Times Square, paying $6,000 a month for a fully outfitted catering kitchen. Average restaurant start-up costs for brick-and-mortar locations, in comparison, can run from $200,000 to more than $1 million.

Within four months, he had generated enough revenue — and created a large enough base of loyal customers — to move to a stand-alone location. His new business, Cutlets, opened in a former Tender Greens restaurant near Gramercy Park on Dec. 1, and has plans to expand.

Mr. Zaro found his rented kitchen space through Use Kitch, an online commercial kitchen marketplace that likens itself to an Airbnb for the restaurant industry.

Testing from a base at a Times Square hotel was the ultimate risk reduction, Mr. Zaro said, adding that the hotel benefited, too: “It was nice for them to have incoming revenue.”

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