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Recent FedSpeak Highlights

  • James Bullard This is the most predicted selloff of all time.

    [ February 6, 2018 ]

    “This is the most predicted selloff of all time because the markets have been up so much and they have had so many days in a row without meaningful down days,’’ Bullard told reporters after a speech Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky. “So it is probably not surprising that something that has gone up 40 percent like the S&P tech sector would at some point have a selloff. Before there was a selloff, people said repeatedly some day this will sell off.”

    Bullard said he agreed with former Chair Janet Yellen’s analysis that stock prices were elevated.

    “They look high compared to historical norms, things like prices to trailing earnings,’’ he said.

    While the central bank is sometimes seen as stepping in to protect investors from steep market declines with a “Greenspan put’’ or a “Bernanke put’’ named after former chairs, Bullard said the Fed isn’t focused on helping markets so much as it reacts to the same data.

    “The stock market and the Fed are looking at the same thing, which is the future of the U.S. economy and the future of the global economy,’’ he said. “To the extent the markets see something that is different from what the Fed sees, it is important information. It is not so clear to me here that there is a story like that -- that the U.S. economy is not as robust as we thought it was.’’

  • Neel Kashkari Certainly valuation does seem on the high end, in terms of the stock market. We’ll see. Maybe this tax cut will lead to stronger earnings growth.

    [ February 5, 2018 ]

    “It seems like people are pricing in that the tax cut is going to have more of a near-term stimulative effect than maybe we appreciated a few months ago,” Kashkari said. “Certainly valuation does seem on the high end, in terms of the stock market. We’ll see. Maybe this tax cut will lead to stronger earnings growth.”

  • Janet L. Yellen Well, I don't want to say [asset prices are] too high.  But I do want to say high.

    [ February 4, 2018 ]

    As for whether Yellen's view that the stock market (which plummeted on Friday) has been too high in recent months: 

    "Well, I don't want to say too high.  But I do want to say high. Price-earnings ratios are near the high end of their historical ranges.  If you look at commercial real estate prices, they are quite high relative to rents.  Now, is that a bubble or is too high?  And there it's very hard to tell.  But it is a source of some concern that asset valuations are so high.

    More From:

    See Also:

    Source:

    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/janet-yellen-the-exit-interview/

    Venue:

    CBS 60 Minutes Interview
  • John Williams For the moment, I don’t see signs of an economy going into overdrive or a bubble about to burst,

    [ February 2, 2018 ]

    While the outlook is positive, it’s not so strong that it’s driving a sea change in my position. For the moment, I don’t see signs of an economy going into overdrive or a bubble about to burst, so I have not adjusted my views of appropriate monetary policy.

  • Robert S. Kaplan I’ve said that I think the base case for 2018 should be three removals of accommodation… it could be more than that, we’ll have to see.

    [ February 2, 2018 ]

    I’ve said that I think the base case for 2018 should be three removals of accommodation… it could be more than that, we’ll have to see.

  • Neel Kashkari The most important thing that I saw in a quick review of the jobs data is wage growth.

    [ February 2, 2018 ]

    "The most important thing that I saw in a quick review of the jobs data is wage growth," Kashkari said. "We've been waiting for wage growth. Everyone's been declaring we're at maximum employment. More Americans have been coming in, which is a really good thing. But there hasn't been much wage growth. This is one of the first signs that we're seeing wage growth finally starting to pick up."

  • John Williams I am not really worried about throwing us off the gradual rate (increases)… It could be a little bit quicker pace of increases, somewhat quicker, but I don’t see any kind of game-changing shift in strategy.

    [ January 19, 2018 ]

    “Right now my base case is that three rate increases for 2018 seems like a good starting point.” Williams told reporters after a talk at the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, adding, “That’s not something that’s locked in.”

    “I am not really worried about throwing us off the gradual rate (increases),” he said. “It could be a little bit quicker pace of increases, somewhat quicker, but I don’t see any kind of game-changing shift in strategy.”

  • William C. Dudley Historically the ability of the Fed to generate a soft landing when the unemployment rate has gone too low . . . the track record is poor.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    Historically the ability of the Fed to generate a soft landing when the unemployment rate has gone too low . . . the track record is poor. Pretty much in all the cases where the unemployment rate has been pushed up a little, it has actually ended up rising a lot. There are no examples historically of the unemployment rate moving up a half a per cent, or 1 per cent, or even 1.5 per cent. Once you have pushed up beyond a couple of tenths of a per cent, the next stop historically is there has been a full-blown recession. Now that does not mean that historical regularity necessarily has to be repeated, but I do think it is hard for the Fed to bring the economy back to a sustainable growth pace, sustainable labor market, if the economy really is too strong and the unemployment rate gets too low.  That is a risk to the longer-term outlook but it needs to be recognised. 

  • William C. Dudley The fact is that we have been tightening monetary policy over the last couple of years, yet financial conditions are actually easier today than when we began to start to tighten monetary policy.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    We will have to see how the economy evolves. There are arguments on both sides of the ledger. Inflation is still below our 2 per cent objective, so that argues for patience, on the other side the economy is growing at an above-trend pace, we are getting more fiscal stimulus so that should actually reinforce that trajectory, the labour market continues to tighten, financial conditions are very accommodative — that is something I put a fair amount of weight on. The fact is that we have been tightening monetary policy over the last couple of years, yet financial conditions are actually easier today than when we began to start to tighten monetary policy.

    It all suggests that the forecast that the FOMC wrote down in December, in the December summary of economic projections — where the median was three rate hikes in 2018 seems a very reasonable type of forecast . . . It could be more. We could do a little bit more, or could do a little bit less. Remember all these are forecasts, they are not pre-commitments. Sometimes people take the SEPs I think a bit too literally. They are just what we think is likely at that particularly point of time. If the economy changes of course we will change our forecasts.

    In response to a question about whether the Fed would raise rates three times in 2018.

  • William C. Dudley I don’t think there is any signal at all to take today [from the flat yield curve] in terms of the probability of a near-term recession.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    The yield curve is flatter than normal but there are good reasons why it is flatter than normal. The most obvious one is that we have QE still ongoing in Japan and Europe and the Fed still has a very elevated balance sheet relative to where we are actually headed in the medium to longer term. So bond term premia are unusually depressed. So think about the path you expect of short term rates in the future and ask yourself how much additional compensation for the risk of holding a bond you want to take. Right now by the measures we have bond term premia are about zero. That means the yield curve, everything else equal, is going to be flatter today than it would typically in prior environments when the term premium was much much larger. Historically the term premium, the spread between say three month treasury bills and 10-year treasury notes, has been about 100 basis points in terms of that term premium. Today the term premium is about zero. That accounts for pretty much all of the fact that the yield curve is flatter than normal can be explained just by the bond term premium.

    I would be much more concerned about the yield curve if I thought that the yield curve was flat because people thought short-term rates were high and monetary policy was tight. The reason why . . . an inverted yield curve has historically been a pretty good predictor of recession is typically the yield curve becomes inverted and people think short-term rates are high relative to what they are going to be in the future because monetary policy is tight. That turns out to be correct, and the tightness of monetary policy generates an economic downturn and so the yield curve essentially forecasts that outcome. In the current environment the yield curve is not inverted, it is flatter than normal mainly because term premia are unusually depressed. Market participants think short-term rates are low relative to what they are going to be in the future. I don’t think there is any signal at all to take today in terms of the probability of a near-term recession.

  • William C. Dudley Another thing to look at is should we have a range for the inflation rate rather than just a 2 per cent target? I think the 2 per cent objective is a little bit overly precise.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    A:  I would not start with the notion of what should we be looking at in terms of our inflation target. I would back up one step and say we should be thinking about the issue of the zero lower bound and what is the risk that in the next recession we could be pushed back to the zero lower bound, and then how do we feel about that and how do we feel about whether we have sufficient instruments to sort of manage that process... You really want to evaluate what are the tools we have to generate an economic recovery after the next recession if we are actually pinned at the zero lower bound. I think we are in some ways in better shape today than we were 10 years ago, because we actually have policies that we have pursued that I think have proven to be effective — namely forward guidance and quantitative easing. In some ways the risk of inflation expectations becoming un-anchored to the downside, which is one of the big risks of being pinned at the zero lower bound, that seems diminished relative to where we were 10 years ago in my opinion. But don’t get me wrong. This is definitely worth evaluating. This is a key issue for monetary policy. At the same time I don’t want to overstate the degree of concern I have. Because remember we have only been pinned at the zero lower bound once, in the post world war two period. That is a period of 70 years and we have only had one experience. I don’t want to totally upend monetary policy because of concerns we might go back to the zero lower bound, because I would worry a little bit that I was fighting the last war.

    Q: The reason people say you would not be fighting the last war is this debate we have just been discussing, which is that r* is going to stay low . . . 

    A: But we don’t know that yet. We don’t know what the terminal federal funds point is going to be in this particular business cycle . . . There is a presumption it will be low and there is a presumption we will not have that much room to lower it, but we don’t really know that yet. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. I think it is completely reasonable to evaluate all this and I think we have to really study it very carefully but I don’t think we want to jump to conclusions just because we got pinned at the zero lower bound in the last crisis and I don’t think we want to conclude that r* is necessarily depressed permanently and that has some long term consequences for monetary policy. In terms of my own thought process on this I guess thinking about a price level targeting regime is something worthy of evaluating. Ben Bernanke has proposed an asymmetric price level targeting regime where you basically make up shortfalls when you are running below your inflation target but don’t make up shortfalls when you are running above. 

    Q: Kind of complicated . . . 

    A: . . . on the downside it is complicated but I understand why he is proposing it that way. Price level targeting does have some attractive features ... that will help keep inflation expectations better anchored and that makes it more easy to actually recover from an economic downturn. So that is one thing to look at.

    Another thing to look at is should we have a range for the inflation rate rather than just a 2 per cent target? I think the 2 per cent objective is a little bit overly precise. I think almost never will actually be right spot on the 2 per cent objective. It would be worth at least evaluating whether a range might be a more appropriate way to communicate how well we want to do, or how well we think it is feasible to do in terms of our inflation target. 

    Q: A range from 1 to 3 [per cent]? 

    A: Let’s say from 1.5 to 2.5 [per cent]. The idea would be when you are at 1.5 to 2.5 [per cent] you are not very concerned. It is pretty close to your definition of price stability. But if you get outside of that range on either side you become more concerned. That would be something worthy of evaluating.

    Moving from a 2 per cent inflation target to a 4 per cent inflation target: I personally think that is a bridge too far for two reasons. Number one the mandate for us is not set by the Fed it is set by Congress, and Congress has said price stability. I think it is very hard to pretend that 4 per cent inflation is consistent with price stability. And two if you actually had a 4 per cent inflation target it would start to distort economic decision-making.  Think about it: at 2 per cent inflation the price level doubles every 35 years. At 4 per cent inflation it doubles twice as fast. That then really has consequences for retirees and businesses and investors. So I think I would be at this point at least pretty sceptical of the wisdom of moving to a higher inflation target.

    ... 

    Q: The Fed is supposed to be targeting 2 per cent currently, at any given time; is there any argument that you could target 2 per cent over the course of a cycle? That would get you towards this idea of a price level target without formally moving to a price level target, because you are looking at an average over time? 

    A: You could potentially have something that was sort of a soft version of price level targeting. The problem with price level targeting if you actually move to that formally is it raises a lot of questions. If you overshoot inflation how quickly do you have to bring inflation back to your 2 per cent average. If you had a more general thing that our goal is to achieve 2 per cent inflation over the medium to longer run that could be maybe a softer version of price level targeting, without having to describe all the nuances. One of the challenges of price level targeting is how do you communicate it? And the second challenge of price level targeting is if you do the symmetric version it is attractive when you undershoot inflation that you want to overshoot inflation. It is not so attractive that when you overshoot inflation you want to undershoot inflation. You want to undershoot inflation then the zero lower bound problem reasserts itself. That is really the problem of symmetric price level targeting. You are comfortable overshooting after you undershoot, you are not very comfortable if you have overshot to undershoot.

  • Loretta J. Mester If the economy evolves as I anticipate, I believe further increases in interest rates will be appropriate this year and next year, at a pace similar to last year’s.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    If the economy evolves as I anticipate, I believe further increases in interest rates will be appropriate this year and next year, at a pace similar to last year’s.

  • John Williams It would be a great honor to serve as vice-chairman of the Fed.

    [ January 18, 2018 ]

    John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, is gunning for one of the top positions in central banking, saying it would be a “great honour” to serve as number two under Jay Powell, the incoming chair.

    The regional Fed president said he would “welcome such an opportunity to contribute to the important mission of the Fed”, when asked by the Financial Times if he would be up for a move to Washington to serve as vice-chairman of the Fed’s Board of Governors.

    ...

    Mr Williams suggested the US outlook is as good as it has been for a number of years. The global economy had hit a turning point where expansion is on firmer foundations not only in the US but in Europe and elsewhere around the world, he said. That combined with some fiscal stimulus is “giving you a tailwind”, and could reduce the disinflationary pressures worldwide. 

    “All those forces provide me with greater confidence that the US economy is going to continue to grow actually somewhat above trend this year and is on a very good footing in terms of growth,” Mr Williams said. “That supports again my confidence that we will see inflation move gradually back to 2 per cent.”

    With equity markets continuing to surge, Mr Williams said one of the desirable side-effects of continuing to gradually lift rates is that higher borrowing costs could reduce some of the incentive for investors to pay excessively high prices for assets.

    “The worry you have is not about where they are today,” he said of asset prices. “Obviously we don’t want to in any way contribute to animal spirits or another kind of psychology that leads people to kind of lose track of those fundamentals and go crazy and pay whatever — speculate.”

  • Robert S. Kaplan I feel strongly and have a lot of conviction that the base case should be three moves for this year. And if I’m wrong, it could even potentially be more than that.

    [ January 17, 2018 ]

    I feel strongly and have a lot of conviction that the base case should be three moves for this year. And if I’m wrong, it could even potentially be more than that. But I certainly think it makes sense to have three removals of accommodation, and we’ll see how the economy unfolds during the year.

    I’d say I have a lot more conviction starting this year that three should be the number.

  • Eric Rosengren I would also suggest that the optimal inflation rate is not likely to remain constant over time...  In my view, adopting an inflation range that allows for movement in the effective medium-run inflation goal might be a helpful addition to the Fed’s monetary policy framework...  If we set the range to – for example – 1.5 to 3.0 percent ...this would represent a set of inflation outcomes that are similar to those the U.S. has experienced over the past 20 years.

    [ January 12, 2018 ]

    I would also suggest that the optimal inflation rate is not likely to remain constant over time. An alternative, which would recognize that the inflation target should not necessarily be constant, is an inflation range with an adjustable inflation target. Within this framework, one could think of our inflation goal as defined by two components: A range of inflation rates that policymakers would find acceptable across many economic circumstances, and a medium-term goal within that range that policymakers would set, perhaps year by year, depending on specific economic circumstances.

    In my view, adopting an inflation range that allows for movement in the effective medium-run inflation goal might be a helpful addition to the Fed’s monetary policy framework.  An inflation range that allows some movement in the inflation target, depending on economic fundamentals, would be treating the Fed’s inflation goal more like the natural rate of unemployment, where we recognize that the natural rate will shift over time with demographic and other workforce characteristics.

    Of course, the advantages of greater inflation target flexibility would likely be partly offset by some costs. For instance, it is likely that such flexibility would generate more uncertainty about inflation in the medium to long run, since we cannot know for sure how long productivity and demographic trends would persist.7 However, if we set the range to – for example – 1.5 to 3.0 percent, and were successful in keeping inflation mostly in that range, this would represent a set of inflation outcomes that are similar to those the U.S. has experienced over the past 20 years.

    ...

    One way to avoid periods of prolonged low interest rates would be to alter the inflation target in response to changes in our estimates of real interest rates – estimates that have been changing of late. This would make inflation, like the natural unemployment rate, a target that could vary over time. If, for example, the monetary policy framework set an inflation range of, say 1.5 to 3.0 percent, the FOMC could vary its medium-term inflation target to be high, low, or in the middle of the range depending on economic factors that the Committee could determine at the beginning of each year. For example, in the current environment, with low population growth and low productivity growth, policy could move even more gradually to remove accommodation, and allow inflation to be somewhat higher in its range. Should the labor force or productivity grow more quickly, the Committee could seek to gradually reduce the inflation target within its range.

    ...

    An inflation range with an adjustable medium-run inflation goal is one way to address such concerns, but there are a variety of alternative frameworks also worth considering.18 In my view, we are approaching a time when a comprehensive reconsideration of the monetary policy framework is likely warranted, given the experience of the past 10 years. Any change we make should be designed to provide policymakers with the flexibility to set monetary policy appropriately as key features of the economy change, as they have repeatedly over U.S. economic history.

  • Patrick Harker [An] issue I’m watching is the yield curve, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this room. My assessment is that the worries so far have been inflated.

    [ January 12, 2018 ]

    [An] issue I’m watching is the yield curve, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this room. My assessment is that the worries so far have been inflated.

  • William C. Dudley Over the longer term, however, I am considerably more cautious about the economic outlook.  Keeping the economy on a sustainable path may become more challenging.  While the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 likely will provide additional support to growth over the near term, it will come at a cost...  While this does not seem to be a great concern to market participants today, the current fiscal path is unsustainable.

    [ January 11, 2018 ]

    Broadly speaking, the prospects for continued economic expansion in 2018 look reasonably bright.  The economy is likely to continue to grow at an above-trend pace, which should lead to a tighter labor market and faster wage growth.  Under such conditions, I would expect the inflation rate to drift higher toward the FOMC’s 2 percent long-run objective.

    Over the longer term, however, I am considerably more cautious about the economic outlook.  Keeping the economy on a sustainable path may become more challenging.  While the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 likely will provide additional support to growth over the near term, it will come at a cost.  After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch.  The legislation will increase the nation’s longer-term fiscal burden, which is already facing other pressures, such as higher debt service costs and entitlement spending as the baby-boom generation retires.  While this does not seem to be a great concern to market participants today, the current fiscal path is unsustainable.  In the long run, ignoring the budget math risks driving up longer-term interest rates, crowding out private sector investment and diminishing the country’s creditworthiness.  These dynamics could counteract any favorable direct effects the tax package might have on capital spending and potential output.

  • Robert S. Kaplan We want to avoid a situation where we have such an overheating that we’re playing catch up.

    [ January 10, 2018 ]

    “We want to avoid a situation where we have such an overheating that we’re playing catch up,” Kaplan said at a business event. The cuts are in part a concern, he said, “because I think debt levels of the country are unsustainable.”

  • Charles L. Evans “I think we have to be mindful of the fact that as we have all repriced real interest rates downwards that’s going to find its way into lower long term interest rates,” he told reporters. “We’ve been increasing short-term rates; it’s natural then almost mechanically for there to be a flattening of it.”

    [ January 10, 2018 ]

    “I don’t see any evidence of inflation moving up really fast, or even moving up enough,” Evans told reporters Wednesday after speaking in Lake Forest, Illinois, where he disclosed that at the Dec. 12-13 policy meeting he thought “it would be good to sort of put off the increases until about the middle of this year just to make sure the inflationary concerns resolve themselves.”

  • Raphael Bostic From Bloomberg: Bostic said his base case for 2018 was for two or three rate increases.

    [ January 8, 2018 ]

    Bostic said his base case for 2018 was for two or three rate increases, slightly below the median of three rate increases expected by his colleagues.