Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said he thought the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union wouldn’t have a lasting effect on the U.S. economy and he didn’t view a drop in U.S. bond yields as a warning on the outlook for growth.
“Now that the markets have had some chance to digest the move, I think the ultimate impact on the U.S. economy will be close to zero,” Bullard told reporters Tuesday following a speech in St. Louis.
Bullard, a voting member this year on the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee, said the “shock” of the vote to exit explains why yields on U.S. Treasuries had fallen to historic lows.
“Wall Street has taken that as a signal that growth is slowing” in the U.S., he said. “I think it’s a flight to safety. I would not take it as a signal of U.S. growth prospects.”
In his speech, Bullard repeated the argument he unveiled June 17 that the U.S. is stuck in a low-growth environment for the next two to three years and that Fed officials should keep the federal funds rate almost unchanged for that period.
Wait and See
Fed officials held their target range for the benchmark federal funds rate unchanged at 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent at their June 14-15 meeting to wait for more information on the health of the U.S. labor market following a weak reading for May, and to assess the fallout from Britain’s June 23 referendum on European Union membership.
Answering reporters’ questions, Bullard said the robust June employment report of 287,000 workers added to payrolls showed May’s poor performance had been “an anomaly.” The three-month average for employment growth signals the trend is slowing as expected, he said.
“I would expect continued slowing in the pace of job growth,” he said. “We can’t add 200,000 jobs a month anymore.”
The St. Louis Fed chief said he doesn’t expect a tightening labor market to trigger significantly higher inflation because GDP growth will likely remain too weak, at around 2 percent.
“If there was rapid job growth that seemed to be associated with very high economic growth, in that situation we might have to adjust a little bit,” he said.
He said the U.S. is likely to achieve faster economic expansion only if other parts of the government respond with policies that address very low levels of productivity growth and demographic trends.
“We badly need a growth agenda,” Bullard said. Fed officials have repeatedly raised the point, he added. “We’re talking, but I think it’s falling on deaf ears.”
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