It’s probably a good thing the Federal Reserve concluded its latest policy meeting with a strong signal of its intentions, because GDP growth data expected later on Thursday are unlikely to cement rate hike views one way or another.
For all of the incessant talk from market trading desks on how economic forecasters are hopelessly off track on just about everything, their collective thinking on the subtleties of Fed policy near a potentially historic turning point has been well worth listening to.
We have already heard enough commentators and economists explain how U.S. payrolls data will not matter much in coming months because we’re at a solid enough pace of hiring to keep the unemployment rate, already at just 5.1 percent, on a steady downward path.
from Ann Saphir:
John Williams, chief of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, happens to have the same name as the guy who wrote the music for the Star Wars films. Judging from his speeches of late, the Fed’s own Williams is something of a sci-fan himself. Thursday in Salt Lake City he borrowed from the iconic greeting of Star Trek’s Spock with a talk titled “The Economic Outlook: Live long and Prosper.” Earlier this month he riffed on Star Wars, with a speech subtitled “May the (economic) force be with you.” In July, he spoke about “The recovery’s final frontier” (see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098382/). So it is quite logical that the enterprising captain of the Fed’s farthest-flung Western outpost would be keen on exploring strange new worlds. And here I don’t just mean voyaging to Los Angeles, where he was on Monday, or to Spokane, Wash., where he treks next week. Williams, like most Fed officials, believes that after nearly seven years of extraordinarily easy monetary policy, the U.S. economy is finally ready to leave near-zero interest rates behind. On Thursday, Williams repeated his view that the Fed should raise interest rates this year. Not all U.S. central bankers agree – one can almost hear Minneapolis Fed’s Kocherlakota or Chicago Fed’s Evans echoing Princess Leia’s warning, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Certainly, if the Fed can successfully raise rates without quickly needing to cut them again, it will have pulled off what several other global central banks – the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, Sweden’s Riksbank -- have tried to do, but failed. Raising rates this year, as Williams hopes and expects to, would indeed be a bold move; and if the first hike is followed by others, he would indeed be taking the Fed where no other central bank has gone before.
Delaying its first rate hike in nearly a decade after taking a pass in June and July means the U.S. central bank may have stepped further away from an escape from zero rates and $3.7 trillion of asset purchases bloating its balance sheet.
Inflation may be far off target but economists are convinced the United States Federal Reserve and the Bank of England will soon begin raising rates from near zero – with the Fed poised to act as soon as Thursday.