Monday, October 17, 2016

"The Fed's Game Changer?"

From Pension Pulse:
Howard Schneider and Svea Herbst-Bayliss of Reuters report, Fed's Yellen says 'high-pressure' policy may be only way back from crisis:
The Federal Reserve may need to run a "high-pressure economy" to reverse damage from the 2008-2009 crisis that depressed output, sidelined workers, and risks becoming a permanent scar, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday in a broad review of where the recovery may still fall short.

Though not addressing interest rates or immediate policy concerns directly, Yellen laid out the deepening concern at the Fed that U.S. economic potential is slipping and aggressive steps may be needed to rebuild it.

Yellen, in a lunch address to a conference of policymakers and top academics in Boston, said the question was whether that damage can be undone "by temporarily running a 'high-pressure economy,' with robust aggregate demand and a tight labor market."

"One can certainly identify plausible ways in which this might occur," she said.

Looking for policies that would lower unemployment further and boost consumption, even at the risk of higher inflation, could convince businesses to invest, improve confidence, and bring even more workers into the economy.

Yellen's comments, while posed as questions that need more research, still add an important voice to an intensifying debate within the Fed over whether economic growth is close enough to normal to need steady interest rate increases, or whether it remains subpar and scarred, a theory pressed by Harvard economist and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers, among others.

Her remarks jarred the U.S. bond market on Friday afternoon, where they were interpreted as perhaps a willingness to allow inflation to run beyond the Fed's 2.0 percent target. Prices on longer dated U.S. Treasuries, which are most sensitive to inflation expectations, fell sharply and their yields shot higher.

The yields on both 30-year bonds and 10-year notes ended the day at their highest levels since early June, and their spread over shorter-dated 2-year note yields widened by the most in seven months.

Jeffrey Gundlach, chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, said he read Yellen as saying, "'You don't have to tighten policy just because inflation goes to over 2 percent.'

"Inflation can go to 3 percent, if the Fed thinks this is temporary," said Gundlach, who agreed Yellen was striking a chord similar to Summer's "secular stagnation" thesis. "Yellen is thinking independently and willing to act on what she thinks."

While investors by and large think the Fed is likely to raise interest rates in December this year, in a nod to the country's 5.0 percent unemployment rate and expectations that inflation will rise, they do not see the Fed moving aggressively thereafter.

"This is a clear rebuttal of the hawkish arguments," to raise rates soon, a line of argument pitched by some of the Fed's regional bank presidents, said Christopher Low, chief economist at FTN Financial....