Tags: Fed | Presidents | Disinflation | Easing

Three Fed Presidents Say Disinflation May Prompt More Easing

Friday, 19 April 2013 07:15 AM

Three regional Federal Reserve bank presidents said a further decline in U.S. inflation below the Fed’s 2 percent goal may signal a need for more accommodation.

“If inflation looked like it was going to sag further on a persistent basis, I would certainly consider stimulus for the purpose of bringing inflation up to target,” Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, a critic of current easing, said.

Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota called for guarding the inflation target “from below,” while James Bullard of St. Louis said Wednesday, “we should defend the inflation target from the low side.”

Policy makers are expressing concern over disinflation even as some officials such as Lacker advocate curtailing easing by slowing the Fed’s $85 billion monthly pace of bond buying. Consumer prices rose 1.3 percent in February from a year earlier, matching the lowest level since October 2009, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation.

“The Fed is missing its dual mandate on both sides — unemployment is too high and inflation is too low,” said Josh Feinman, the New York-based global chief economist for DB Advisors, the Deutsche Bank AG asset manager.

“This simply makes it more likely the Fed will stick with the program for a while and talk of scaling back sales this summer is diminishing, partly because of the inflation data,” said Feinman, a former Fed senior economist in Washington.

Treasury 10-year note yields traded at almost four-month lows as manufacturing data and an index of U.S. leading indicators trailed forecasts, boosting bets the Fed will continue monetary stimulus. The U.S. 10-year yield was 1.68 percent at 12:29 p.m. in New York, declining 0.01 percentage point, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.

Economists Forecasts

The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months fell 0.1 percent in March after climbing 0.5 percent in the prior two months, the New York-based group said. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent increase.

Also, the Philadelphia Fed’s general economic index fell to 1.3 in April from 2 the prior month, indicating a slower pace of growth. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. Economists surveyed projected a gain to 3.

The Fed said in its Beige Book economic survey that price increases in the U.S. were “mostly subdued” outside of residential construction, with most of the central bank’s 12 districts showing “minimal” price pressures. Last month, the Federal Open Market Committee said inflation was “somewhat below” its goal.

Second Round

The central bank started a second round of asset purchases, or quantitative easing, in 2010 amid concern about deflation risk. Bullard, warning of a Japan-style fall in prices, called on the Fed to buy Treasury notes in a paper entitled “Seven Faces of the Peril.”

The Fed may need to step up stimulus to avert continued disinflation, Bullard said to reporters after a speech in New York.

“If it doesn’t start to turn around here soon, I think we’ll have to rethink where we are in our policy,” he said.

The FOMC in March reaffirmed plans to buy bonds at the current pace until the labor market outlook improves “substantially.” It also pledged to keep interest rates near zero as long as unemployment is above 6.5 percent and inflation doesn’t exceed 2.5 percent. Unemployment in March was 7.6 percent.

Spur Growth

It’s “very important to protect the target” for inflation when prices rise or fall too much, Kocherlakota said to reporters in New York. A further drop in inflation would make him “even more” supportive of additional accommodation to spur growth, he said.

Kocherlakota has called on the Fed to increase stimulus by pledging not to consider raising the benchmark interest rate from zero until unemployment declines to 5.5 percent.

In an April 16 speech, Kockerlakota predicted inflation pressures will “remain subdued” while advocating “a more accommodative monetary policy that puts more upward pressure on prices.”

Lacker said he doesn’t see an imminent threat from disinflation.

“With the state of the economy and price and wage trends what they are, I don’t see a material risk now of the rate of inflation falling substantially further,” Lacker said to reporters at a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I’d of course be giving serious thought to providing monetary stimulus” should disinflation continue, Lacker said, while reiterating his view that the Fed should slow or end its bond buying.

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Three regional Federal Reserve bank presidents said a further decline in U.S. inflation below the Fed s 2 percent goal may signal a need for more accommodation. If inflation looked like it was going to sag further on a persistent basis, I would certainly consider stimulus...
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Friday, 19 April 2013 07:15 AM
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