Soft US Inflation May Warrant Interest Rate “Rethink”
$DIA, $SPY, $QQQ, $VXX
Tuesday, Fed Governor Lael Brainard said soft US inflation may cause her to reassess the path forward for monetary policy should it linger, even as the global economic outlook brightens and US growth looks poised to rebound.
“If the soft inflation data persist, that would be concerning and, ultimately, could lead me to reassess the appropriate path of policy,” Ms. Brainard said in prepared remarks Tuesday. She said her baseline expectation is that “it likely will be appropriate soon to adjust the federal funds rate” and start shrinking the balance sheet.
Ms. Brainard’s remarks underline a puzzle facing the Fed.
Joblessness has fallen to a post-crisis low and consumer confidence is strong, yet price pressures have cooled, which could make the Fed’s coming discussions more complicated. The FOMC lifted rates in March and see 2 more Y 2017 rate increases, some investors expect the 1st of those to come in June, others say not till September.
“I see some tension between signs that the economy is in the neighborhood of full employment and indications that the tentative progress we had seen on inflation may be slowing,” Ms. Brainard said. “If the tension between the progress on employment and the lack of progress on inflation persists, it may lead me to reassess the expected path of the federal funds rate in the future, although it is premature to make that call today.”
Ms. Brainard also said that if the economy evolves as expected, “the federal funds rate will likely approach the point at which normalization can be considered well under way before too long, when it will be appropriate to adjust balance sheet policy.”
She went on to say that rate increases and balance sheet roll-off are essentially substitutes for one another, suggested Tuesday that the Fed won’t preset an ending level for the balance sheet.
“It is difficult to know in advance with any precision how low reserves can be allowed to drop,” she said. “That minimum level will depend on the structural demand for reserves and the short-term variability in the demand for and supply of reserves.”
Ms. Brainard is a long-time monetary policy Dove who often points to risks in the global outlook.
She said that the US could see a boost from fiscal policy if President Trump’s proposed tax cuts were to take effect, though there’s uncertainty about the magnitude and timing of any changes. She flagged the debate around the US debt limit as a potential pitfall for her outlook.
Note: The federal government will run out of ways to stay under the borrowing limit in 2-H of this year unless Congress votes to move it higher.
Tuesday, the US major stock market indexes finished at: DJIA -50.81 at 21029.47, NAS Comp -7.00 at 6203.17, S&P 500 -2.91 at 2412.91
Volume: Trade on the NYSE came in light at 770.4-M/shares exchanged
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