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Thursday, October 08, 2009

NY Times: Divergent Fed Views

by Calculated Risk on 10/08/2009 09:05:00 PM

From the Edmund Andrews at the NY Times: Rift Emerges in Fed Over When to Tighten Money

Fissures are developing among policy makers at the Federal Reserve as they debate how and when to start raising the benchmark interest rate from its current level just above zero.
One hint of the discord came Tuesday, in a speech by Thomas M. Hoenig, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Though he stopped short of calling for immediate rate increases, Mr. Hoenig made it clear that he was getting impatient.

“My experience tells me that we will need to remove our very accommodative policy sooner rather than later,” he told an audience of business executives. ...

And he is not alone.

Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, sent a similar message in a speech on Sept. 29. “That wind-down process needs to begin as soon as there are convincing signs that economic growth is gaining traction,” he told a business group.

Other Fed officials [have] similar views ...
And on the other side:
“The turnaround is certainly welcome, but it shouldn’t be overstated,” Daniel K. Tarullo, a Fed governor ...

“Some observers are concerned that this expansion will ultimately prove to be inflationary,” William C. Dudley, president of the New York Fed told an audience at the Fordham University’s Corporate Law Center. “This concern is not well founded.”
As I noted last month, it is unlikely that the Fed will increase the Fed's Fund rate until sometime after the unemployment rate peaks.

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

This graph shows the effective Fed Funds rate (Source: Federal Reserve) and the unemployment rate (source: BLS)

In the early '90s, the Fed waited more than a 1 1/2 years after the unemployment rate peaked before raising rates. The unemployment rate had fallen from 7.8% to 6.6% before the Fed raised rates.

Following the peak unemployment rate in 2003 of 6.3%, the Fed waited a year to raise rates. The unemployment rate had fallen to 5.6% in June 2004 before the Fed raised rates.

Although there are other considerations, since the unemployment rate will probably continue to increase into 2010, I don't expect the Fed to raise rates until late in 2010 at the earliest - and more likely sometime in 2011.

And from Chairman Bernanke tonight:
When the economic outlook has improved sufficiently, we will be prepared to tighten the stance of monetary policy and eventually return our balance sheet to a more normal configuration.
Some people are taking that as tough talk, see: Dollar Rises After Bernanke Says Fed Ready to ‘Tighten’ Policy, but I disagree - I think "improved sufficiently" means Bernanke will wait for a meaningful decline in the unemployment rate.