Monday, September 25, 2017

Duy: "Has The Fed Abandoned Its Reaction Function?"

by Bill McBride on 9/25/2017 01:44:00 PM

From economist Tim Duy at FedWatch: Has The Fed Abandoned Its Reaction Function?

The immediate policy outcomes of the FOMC meeting were largely as expected. Central bankers left interest rates unchanged while announcing that the reduction of the balance sheet will begin in October as earlier outlined in June. The real action was in the Summary of Economic Projections. Policymakers continue to anticipate one more rate hike this year and three next. This policy stance looks inconsistent with the downward revisions to projections of inflation and the neutral rate; under the Fed’s earlier reaction function, the combination of the two would drive down rate projections. Arguably, policy is thus no longer as data dependent as the Fed would like us to believe. That or the reaction function has changed.
The economic forecasts were somewhat confounding. Policymakers edged up their growth forecasts, but still anticipate that unemployment will end the year at 4.3%.

The unemployment forecast for the next two years edged down 0.1 percentage point, but this relative stability is somewhat confusing given that growth is expected to exceed potential growth until 2020 (remember, the Fed believes that labor force participation is more likely to fall than rise, so strong growth should induce downward pressure on unemployment).
Bottom line: the Fed is strongly committed to rate hikes. The[y] don’t appear to be following their earlier reaction function; policy feels path dependent at the moment. Indeed, given the Fed’s expectation of low inflation and volatile and possibly weak data due to the hurricanes, it is difficult to see what stops the Fed from hiking in December.