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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

FOMC Minutes: "Risks to inflation were skewed to the upside"; 50bp increases likely appropriate at next couple of meetings

by Calculated Risk on 5/25/2022 02:07:00 PM

From the Fed: Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, May 3–4, 2022. Excerpt on the "Plans for Reducing the Size of the Balance Shee"t:

In their discussion of risks to the outlook, participants emphasized that they were highly attentive to inflation risks and would continue to monitor closely inflation developments and inflation expectations. They agreed that risks to inflation were skewed to the upside and cited several such risks, including those associated with ongoing supply bottlenecks and rising energy and commodity prices—both of which were exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and COVID-related lockdowns in China. Also mentioned were the risks associated with nominal wage growth continuing to run above levels consistent with 2 percent inflation over time and the extent to which households' high savings since the onset of the pandemic and healthy balance sheets would support greater-than-expected underlying momentum in consumer spending and contribute to upside inflation pressures. In addition, some participants emphasized that persistently high inflation heightened the risk that longer-term inflation expectations could become unanchored; in that case, the task of returning inflation to 2 percent would be more difficult. Uncertainty about real activity was also seen as elevated. Various participants noted downside risks to the outlook, including risks associated with the Russian invasion and COVID-related lockdowns in China and the likelihood of a prolonged rise in energy and commodity prices.

Several participants who commented on issues related to financial stability noted that the tightening of monetary policy could interact with vulnerabilities related to the liquidity of markets for Treasury securities and to the private sector's intermediation capacity. A couple of participants pointed to increased risks in financial markets linked to commodities following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which had led to higher prices and volatility across a wide range of energy, agricultural, and metal products. These participants observed that the trading and risk-management practices of some key participants in commodities markets were not fully visible to regulatory authorities and noted that central counterparties (CCPs) needed to remain capable of managing risks associated with heightened volatility or that margin requirements at CCPs could give rise to significant liquidity demands for large banks, broker-dealers, and their clients.

In their consideration of the appropriate stance of monetary policy, all participants concurred that the U.S. economy was very strong, the labor market was extremely tight, and inflation was very high and well above the Committee's 2 percent inflation objective. Against this backdrop, all participants agreed that it was appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate 50 basis points at this meeting. They further anticipated that ongoing increases in the target range for the federal funds rate would be warranted to achieve the Committee's objectives. Participants also agreed that it was appropriate to start reducing the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet on June 1, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that would be issued in conjunction with the postmeeting statement. Participants judged that an appropriate firming of the stance of monetary policy, along with an eventual waning of supply–demand imbalances, would help to keep longer-term inflation expectations anchored and bring inflation down over time to levels consistent with the Committee's 2 percent longer-run goal.

All participants reaffirmed their strong commitment and determination to take the measures necessary to restore price stability. To this end, participants agreed that the Committee should expeditiously move the stance of monetary policy toward a neutral posture, through both increases in the target range for the federal funds rate and reductions in the size of the Federal Reserve's balance sheet. Most participants judged that 50 basis point increases in the target range would likely be appropriate at the next couple of meetings. Many participants assessed that the Committee's previous communications had been helpful in shifting market expectations regarding the policy outlook into better alignment with the Committee's assessment and had contributed to the tightening of financial conditions.

All participants supported the plans for reducing the size of the balance sheet. This reduction, starting on June 1, would work in parallel with increases in the target range for the policy rate in firming the stance of monetary policy. A number of participants remarked that, after balance sheet runoff was well under way, it would be appropriate for the Committee to consider sales of agency MBS to enable suitable progress toward a longer-run SOMA portfolio composed primarily of Treasury securities. Any program of sales of agency MBS would be announced well in advance. Regarding risks related to the balance sheet reduction, several participants noted the potential for unanticipated effects on financial market conditions.

Participants agreed that the economic outlook was highly uncertain and that policy decisions should be data dependent and focused on returning inflation to the Committee's 2 percent goal while sustaining strong labor market conditions. At present, participants judged that it was important to move expeditiously to a more neutral monetary policy stance. They also noted that a restrictive stance of policy may well become appropriate depending on the evolving economic outlook and the risks to the outlook. Participants observed that developments associated with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the COVID-related lockdowns in China posed heightened risks for both the United States and economies around the world. Several participants commented on the challenges that monetary policy faced in restoring price stability while also maintaining strong labor market conditions. In light of the high degree of uncertainty surrounding the economic outlook, participants judged that risk-management considerations would be important in deliberations over time regarding the appropriate policy stance. Many participants judged that expediting the removal of policy accommodation would leave the Committee well positioned later this year to assess the effects of policy firming and the extent to which economic developments warranted policy adjustments.
emphasis added