Monday, June 14, 2010

When will the Fed raise rates?

by Bill McBride on 6/14/2010 03:54:00 PM

Over the last year a number of analysts have predicted the Fed would raise the Fed Funds rate "soon". They have all been wrong.

The Fed's mission is to conduct "monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates". Historically the Fed has not raised the Fed Funds rate until unemployment drops significantly. Based on the the Fed's own forecasts of the unemployment rate and inflation, the Fed will probably not raise the Fed Funds rate until late 2011 at the earliest.

San Francisco Fed senior vice president and associate director of research Glenn Rudebusch writes: The Fed's Exit Strategy for Monetary Policy

Rudebusch's economic letter suggests that the Fed might not raise rates until 2012 ...

Fed Funds Rate Click on graph for larger image in new window.

The graph from Rudebusch's shows a modified Taylor rule. According to Rudebusch's estimate, the Fed Funds rate should be around minus 5% right now if we ignore unconventional policy (obviously there is a lower bound):

The resulting simple policy guideline recommends lowering the funds rate by 1.3 percentage points if inflation falls by 1 percentage point and by almost 2 percentage points if the unemployment rate rises by 1 percentage point.
...
Figure 1 also provides a simple perspective on when the Fed should raise the funds rate. The dashed line combines the benchmark rule of thumb with the Federal Open Market Committee’s median economic forecasts (FOMC 2010), which predict slowly falling unemployment and continued low inflation. The dashed line shows that to deliver future monetary stimulus consistent with the past—and ignoring the zero lower bound—the funds rate would be negative until late 2012. In practice, this suggests little need to raise the funds rate target above its zero lower bound anytime soon.
Fed Funds RateRudebusch them modifies the rule taking into account unconventional policy.
Even though the funds rate was pushed to its zero lower bound by the end of 2008, considerable scope remained to lower long-term interest rates. To do this, the Fed started buying longer-term Treasury and federal agency debt securities ...

The additional stimulus from the Fed’s unconventional monetary policy implies that the appropriate level of short-term interest rates would be higher than shown in Figure 1. ... If the Fed’s purchases reduced long rates by ½ to ¾ of a percentage point, the resulting stimulus would be very roughly equal to a 1½ to 3 percentage point cut in the funds rate. Assuming unconventional policy stimulus is maintained, then the recommended target funds rate from the simple policy rule could be adjusted up by approximately 2¼ percentage points, as shown in Figure 3, and the recommended period of a near-zero funds rate would end at the beginning of 2012.
Perhaps the unemployment rate will decline faster than expected - or inflation will increase - but right now I wouldn't expect an increase in the Fed Funds rate for a long long time ...

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