Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fed Chair Janet Yellen "The Economy and Monetary Policy"

by Bill McBride on 10/15/2017 09:06:00 AM

From Fed Chair Janet Yellen: The Economy and Monetary Policy. A few excerpts on inflation:

Inflation readings over the past several months have been surprisingly soft, however, and the 12-month change in core PCE prices has fallen to 1.3 percent. The recent softness seems to have been exaggerated by what look like one-off reductions in some categories of prices, especially a large decline in quality-adjusted prices for wireless telephone services. More generally, it is common to see movements in inflation of a few tenths of a percentage point that are hard to explain, and such "surprises" should not really be surprising. My best guess is that these soft readings will not persist, and with the ongoing strengthening of labor markets, I expect inflation to move higher next year. Most of my colleagues on the FOMC agree. In the latest Summary of Economic Projections, my colleagues and I project inflation to move higher next year and to reach 2 percent by 2019.

To be sure, our understanding of the forces that drive inflation is imperfect, and we recognize that this year's low inflation could reflect something more persistent than is reflected in our baseline projections. The fact that a number of other advanced economies are also experiencing persistently low inflation understandably adds to the sense among many analysts that something more structural may be going on. Let me mention a few possibilities of more fundamental influences.

First, given that estimates of the natural rate of unemployment are so uncertain, it is possible that there is more slack in U.S. labor markets than is commonly recognized, which may be true for some other advanced economies as well. If so, some further tightening in the labor market might be needed to lift inflation back to 2 percent.

Second, some measures of longer-term inflation expectations have edged lower over the past few years in several major economies, and it remains an open question whether these measures might be reflecting a true decline in expectations that is broad enough to be affecting actual inflation outcomes.

Third, our framework for understanding inflation dynamics could be misspecified in some way. For example, global developments--perhaps technological in nature, such as the tremendous growth of online shopping--could be helping to hold down inflation in a persistent way in many countries. Or there could be sector-specific developments--such as the subdued rise in medical prices in the United States in recent years--that are not typically included in aggregate inflation equations but which have contributed to lower inflation. Such global and sectoral developments could continue to be important restraining influences on inflation. Of course, there are also risks that could unexpectedly boost inflation more rapidly than expected, such as resource utilization having a stronger influence when the economy is running closer to full capacity.

In this economic environment, with ongoing improvements in labor market conditions and softness in inflation that is expected to be temporary, the FOMC has continued its policy of gradual policy normalization.