The combination of a rapidly growing economy, and a surge in oil prices, has raised questions about the strength of the doves’ hand at the Fed. Previously in firm control, the doves had until yesterday been silent about the recent mixture of strong GDP growth and rising headline inflation. Was the case for exceptionally easy monetary policy beginning to fray at the edges? Not in the mind of New York Fed President Bill Dudley, who is among the most eloquent spokespersons for the dovish standpoint.
In an important speech, Bill Dudley confirmed that the US economy is now growing at an accelerating rate, but said that this reflected the success of Fed policy, rather than providing any case for changing it. He conceded that the structural unemployment rate may have risen to between 6 and 7 per cent, but argued that much of this increase may be temporary. And, in any event, he suggested that employment could rise by 300,000 per month for two years before the economy would run out of spare capacity. On the commodity price surge, he said that this would not be a sufficient reason for tightening monetary policy, unless it started to increase inflation expectations. Assuming this does not happen, Bill Dudley will remain an influential dove for a long time. And this is important, because his recent thinking has been very close to that of US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke himself.
There have been two significant challenges to the Fed’s dominant dovish tendency in recent weeks – the big drop in unemployment, and the rise in commodity prices. Bill Dudley considers both factors carefully, but concludes that neither is powerful enough to change his basic viewpoint on the economy.