Wednesday, February 21, 2018

FOMC Minutes: "Labor market continued to strengthen and that economic activity expanded at a solid rate"

by Bill McBride on 2/21/2018 02:08:00 PM

Still on pace for 3 or 4 rate hikes in 2018, although few signs of "broad-based pickup in wage growth".  Some excerpts:

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, January 30-31, 2018:

In their discussion of the economic situation and the outlook, meeting participants agreed that information received since the FOMC met in December indicated that the labor market continued to strengthen and that economic activity expanded at a solid rate. Gains in employment, household spending, and business fixed investment were solid, and the unemployment rate stayed low. On a 12-month basis, both overall inflation and inflation for items other than food and energy continued to run below 2 percent. Market-based measures of inflation compensation increased in recent months but remained low; survey-based measures of longer-term inflation expectations were little changed, on balance.

Participants generally saw incoming information on economic activity and the labor market as consistent with continued above-trend economic growth and a further strengthening in labor market conditions, with the recent solid gains in household and business spending indicating substantial underlying economic momentum. They pointed to accommodative financial conditions, the recently enacted tax legislation, and an improved global economic outlook as factors likely to support economic growth over coming quarters. Participants expected that with further gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity would expand at a moderate pace and labor market conditions would remain strong. Near-term risks to the economic outlook appeared roughly balanced. Inflation on a 12-month basis was expected to move up this year and to stabilize around the Committee's 2 percent objective over the medium term. However, participants judged that it was important to continue to monitor inflation developments closely.

During their discussion of labor market conditions, participants expressed a range of views about recent wage developments. While some participants heard more reports of wage pressures from their business contacts over the intermeeting period, participants generally noted few signs of a broad-based pickup in wage growth in available data. With regard to how firms might use part of their tax savings to boost compensation, a few participants suggested that such a boost could be in the form of onetime bonuses or variable pay rather than a permanent increase in wage structures. It was noted that the pace of wage gains might not increase appreciably if productivity growth remains low. That said, a number of participants judged that the continued tightening in labor markets was likely to translate into faster wage increases at some point.
emphasis added