Hawk Bullard Calls Raising Rates Unwise

  • St. Louis Fed leader cites declining inflation expectations
  • Asset-price bubbles aren’t a worry amid turmoil, he adds

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said recent financial-market turmoil and a further decline in investors’ expectations for inflation have given the central bank scope to delay interest-rate increases.

“I regard it as unwise to continue a normalization strategy in an environment of declining market-based inflation expectations,” Bullard, who votes on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year, said in a speech Wednesday in St. Louis.

Bullard supported the FOMC’s decision to keep interest rates unchanged last month after raising them six week earlier for the first time in nearly a decade. Many Fed officials saw the risks to the outlook increasing amid slowing economies globally and market turmoil, according to minutes released earlier on Wednesday.

The St. Louis Fed chief said normalization of interest rates was designed in part to address the concern over asset-price bubbles, which have become less of an issue with a recent tightening of financial conditions.

“The recent sell-off in global equity markets, along with increases in risk spreads in corporate bond markets, may have made this risk less of a concern over the medium term,” he said.

“These data-dependent changes likely give the FOMC more leeway in its normalization program,” Bullard said.

Responding to audience questions after his speech, Bullard said the U.S. economy isn’t “remotely close” to needing a policy of negative interest rates like the Bank of Japan and European Central Bank. “The outlook for the U.S. is reasonably good. We are more or less on track with the normalization program” even though “it may take longer.”

The median projection of FOMC members submitted at the December meeting called for four additional quarter-point increases in 2016. In his remarks, Bullard said communicating the policy path this way “could be viewed as an inadvertent calendar-based commitment to increase rates.”

“Maybe we should get away from how many hikes we should do in a year,” he told reporters after his presentation. “You would like to move on good news about the U.S. economy, reasonably good economic growth, further improvement in labor market, confidence that inflation is coming back to path.”

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Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell