Federal Reserve officials forecast that a measure of prices will rise between 2.1 percent and 2.8 percent this year before moderating, underscoring their view that inflation pressures will be “transitory.”
The forecast range for this year compares with the 1.3 percent to 1.7 percent rate estimated in January. The Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures price index minus food and energy, will rise a more modest 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent this year, up from January’s estimates of 1.0 percent to 1.3 percent and still within the Fed’s preferred range of 2 percent or a bit lower.
U.S. central bankers also lowered their forecasts for growth at a two-day meeting that concluded earlier today in Washington. Their release of forecasts coincided with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first press conference, part of an effort to improve communications with financial markets and the public.
The revisions in the forecasts reflected a surge in commodity prices since Fed officials last updated their outlook in January. The Fed will complete a $600 billion bond purchase program in June, according to a Federal Open Market Committee’s policy statement today.
U.S. central bankers said the economy will expand in a range of 3.1 percent to 3.3 percent this year, down from 3.4 percent to 3.9 percent forecast in January.
Wall Street economists have trimmed their forecasts for economic growth in 2011 to 2.9 percent in April from 3.1 percent in January, according to Bloomberg surveys, as consumers have cut back on spending in the face of higher gasoline prices.
The Fed said in its statement that “inflation has picked up in recent months, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable and measures of underlying inflation are still subdued.”
For 2012, Fed officials expect the economy to grow in a range of 3.5 percent to 4.2 percent, according to their central tendency forecasts, little changed from a range of 3.5 percent to 4.4 percent projected in January. Inflation minus food and energy will rise 1.3 percent to 1.8 percent in 2012, up from 1.0 to 1.5 percent.
Fed officials’ central tendency forecast for the average unemployment rate in the final three months of 2011 fell to 8.4 percent to 8.7 percent versus 8.8 percent to 9.0 percent in January. Their estimate for unemployment at the end of 2012 was in a range of 7.6 percent to 7.9 percent versus 7.6 percent to 8.1 percent in January.
The forecasts are the views of the Fed’s 12 regional bank presidents and five Washington-based governors. The central tendency forecasts exclude the three highest and three lowest predictions for each measure of the economy.
Officials update their forecasts at the Fed’s two-day meetings, typically held in January, April, June and November. Beginning today, the forecasts will be released as Bernanke begins his press conference. They were previously released along with minutes of the meeting, which are made public in three weeks.
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