MacroScope

A Fed dove does Broadway

Earlier this month, the chief of the Minneapolis Fed gave an extraordinary speech http://bit.ly/1qUTucn in which he called for higher inflation.

That’s right — you and me, paying more for goods and services. Why would a central banker want something like that?

To Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, policymakers who worry about too-high inflation are caught in a time warp from the 1970s, when price rises were in the double digits and President Gerald Ford was organizing the “Whip Inflation Now” campaign, or WIN for short.

The White House at the time commissioned Broadway hit maker Meredith Willson to write a theme song. Kocherlakota quotes the lyrics:

“Who wants inflation? Not this nation! Who’s going to pass it by? You are, and so am I.”

The limits of Federal Reserve forward guidance on interest rates

The ‘taper tantrum’ of May and June, as the mid-year spike in interest rates became known, appears to have humbled Federal Reserve officials into having a second look at their convictions about the power of forward guidance on interest rate policy.

Take James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed. He acknowledged on Friday that the Fed’s view of the separation between rates guidance and asset purchases had not been fully accepted by financial markets. “This presents challenges for the Committee,” he noted.

A decision to modestly reduce the pace of asset purchases can still leave a very accommodative policy in place to the extent forward guidance remains intact.

In his own words: Fed’s Bullard explains dovish dissent

The following is a statement from the St. Louis Fed following the decision by its president, James Bullard, to dissent from the U.S. central bank’s decision to signal a looming reduction in its bond-buying stimulus program:

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard dissented with the Federal Open Market Committee decision announced on June 19, 2013.  In his view, the Committee should have more strongly signaled its willingness to defend its inflation target of 2 percent in light of recent low inflation readings.  Inflation in the U.S. has surprised on the downside during 2013.  Measured as the percent change from one year earlier, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) headline inflation rate is running below 1 percent, and the PCE core inflation rate is close to 1 percent.  President Bullard believes that to maintain credibility, the Committee must defend its inflation target when inflation is below target as well as when it is above target.

President Bullard also felt that the Committee’s decision to authorize the Chairman to lay out a more elaborate plan for reducing the pace of asset purchases was inappropriately timed.  The Committee was, through the Summary of Economic Projections process, marking down its assessment of both real GDP growth and inflation for 2013, and yet simultaneously announcing that less accommodative policy may be in store.  President Bullard felt that a more prudent approach would be to wait for more tangible signs that the economy was strengthening and that inflation was on a path to return toward target before making such an announcement.

Fed speak galore

The pace of Federal Reserve speeches intensifies next week, with Vice Chair Janet Yellen kicking off the calendar on Tuesday with a speech on financial stability. Yellen will be speaking in Tokyo at an IMF meeting panel. The cacophony picks up on Wednesday, with remarks from Minneapolis Fed president and recent dovish convert Narayana Kocherlakota, the board’s regulation-czar Dan Tarullo and the ever hawkish Richard Fisher from Dallas. On Thursday, Yellen will directly address monetary policy in another speech, while board governors Jeremy Stein and Sarah Raskin offer a rare peak into their macroeconomic views. Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser and Jim Bullard of the St.Louis Fed, both of whom have opposed QE3, are also on tap. Jeff Lacker, the lone dissenter on this year’s FOMC, will close the week on Friday.

Put your rate hike where your mouth is

Jonathan Spicer and Van Tsui contributed to this post.

This week, for the second time ever, the U.S. Federal Reserve published policymakers’ forecasts for when the central bank should start raising rates. The chart suggested a split Fed, with three policymakers expecting a rate rise this year, three next year, seven in 2014 and four in 2015. That’s useful information, as far as it goes.

But as much as the Fed has embraced transparency in recent years, it stopped short of saying which policymaker backs a rate hike in which year – a key bit of data for grasping where the voters on Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s policy-setting committee stand, and how their positions shift over time.

Below is the bar graph that the Fed published Wednesday, with Reuters’ best estimates of who fell where. We stand ready be convinced otherwise by readers offering evidence or insight that supports a different view. Send us an email, gives us a call, write a comment or shout us out on Twitter.

Seein’ double, gettin’ in trouble at the Fed

OK, this time, maybe it was a mistake to do the math.

Concluding the Fed was cooler to more monetary easing by trying to tally policymakers who openly expressed support for further stimulus at the March meeting may have led to a distorted picture of where officials’ views stand. Weak March payrolls data underscore the shakiness of this analysis.

First, let’s run the numbers. Minutes of the Fed’s March meeting revealed that “a couple” participants on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee thought the economy would need more help from the Fed if things got worse. That head count was a lot smaller than the previous meeting. January minutes had shown “a few” participants thought there should be more easing if things continued as they were. “Other members” at the first meeting of the year had thought the Fed should act if the outlook got worse.

So, comparing the two meetings, some people, including this reporter, thought it was fair to assume that “a couple” was less than “a few” plus “other members.”

Love, dissent and transparency at the Fed

All four Federal Reserve policymakers who dissented on U.S. central bank policy this year will lose their votes next year. That could make the New Year full of love, but not necessary free from dissent, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher joked on Friday.

Fisher, like Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota and Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser, lobbied and lost against Fed easing earlier this year; all three dissented twice. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans dissented twice from the other side of the aisle, arguing for further easing at the most recent two meetings against the majority’s decision to stand pat.

None will have votes next year. Not, of course, because they voiced their opposition to the majority, but simply because votes rotate among regional Fed presidents according to a set schedule, and it just so happened that all four regional Fed presidents with votes this year used those votes to dissent.