The most newsy point from NY Fed president William Dudley’s speech today was his call for a change in exit strategy, urging the central bank to reinvest in its mortgage portfolio. But there was a lot more going on in the speech: Mr Dudley put a dovish spin on the Fed’s inflation target. He said bank regulation may be driving down neutral interest rates, and he put markets on notice that how they price bonds will decide how the Fed changes interest rates.
(1) Inflation is coming
Mr Dudley’s tone on inflation was different to the isn’t-it-worringly-low type of remarks that Fed officials have tended to make recently. Instead, he expects inflation to head upwards, and seemed to be testing arguments for why Fed policy should not react.
“With respect to the outlook for prices, I think that inflation will drift upwards over the next year, getting closer to the FOMC’s 2 percent objective for the personal consumption expenditure deflator . . . That said, I see little prospect of inflation climbing sharply over the next year or two. There still are considerable margins of excess capacity available in the economy—especially in the labor market—that should moderate price pressures.”
Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank president, pulled off the feat of sounding incredibly doveish today while keeping rates on hold and actually making sure his room for manoeuvre remains as wide as possible. Here are five quick takeaways from the press conference following this month’s meeting:
When we look back on the FOMC meeting on June 19 2013, it will probably be seen as the moment when the Fed signalled that it was beginning the long and gradual exit from its programme of unconventional monetary easing. The reason for this was clear in the committee’s statement, which said that the downside risks to economic activity had diminished since last autumn, presumably because the US economy had navigated the fiscal tightening better than expected and the risks surrounding the euro had abated.
This was the smoking gun in the statement. With downside risks declining, the need for an emergency programme of monetary easing was no longer so compelling. The Fed has been the unequivocal friend of the markets for much of the time since 2009, and certainly ever since last September. That comfortable assumption no longer applies.
Last week anti-capitalist protesters outside the European Central Bank were dominating (at least the local) news in Frankfurt, this week it was the turn of the policymakers inside the building. The ECB is keeping its rates on hold at 0.5 per cent and Mario Draghi, president, has been quizzed on where the eurozone is headed.
The ECB staff’s quarterly economic forecasts have been tweaked, so this year’s contraction is greater than previously forecast at 0.6 per cent and next year’s growth forecast creeps up to 1.1 per cent (but then a year is a long, long time in economic forecasting.)
What else have we learnt?
Hello and welcome to the FT’s live blog on the European Central Bank’s rate decision and press conference. All eyes on Thursday are on the ECB and what it has left in its tool kit as gloomy data throws further doubt on the recession-bound eurozone economy.
Many economists are expecting what would largely be a symbolic cut in interest rates. The governing council’s vote is due at 12.45 (BST) and ECB President Mario Draghi will meet the press at half past one.
By Claire Jones and Lindsay Whipp. All times are UK time.
Mark Carney, the incoming governor of the Bank of England, was grilled by MPs and his ECB counterpart Mario Draghi faced awkward questions. By Tom Burgis, Ben Fenton and Lina Saigol in London with contributions from FT correspondents. All times are GMT.
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The Bank of England’s financial (in?)stability report is due out on Thursday.
Martin Weale’s speech today shows how far the policy debate has shifted at the Bank of England. As recently as early July, this external member of the monetary policy committee was voting for higher interest rates. Now he is openly talking about restarting quantitative easing.
Mr Weale should certainly be praised for being as good as his words. In March he said he was perfectly happy to change his mind if the facts changed and he has done so. No longer voting for a rate rise does not indicate a previous error of judgment, only that circumstances have changed.
From his speech today, Mr Weale, one of the more hawkish MPC members, now clearly thinks that UK QE2 might be necessary and he believes it would work.
The first six months of 2011 have been most uncomfortable for the Bank of England. The combination of overshooting of inflation and weakness of growth really brings out the inner-hawks and inner-doves on the Monetary Policy Committee.
Do they react to the rise in price pressures seeming to come from weakness in supply? Do they assume price rises are temporary and respond to what they see as a shortfall in demand? Or do they sit on the fence?
The fence sitters have won the day so far on the MPC. But today’s inflation figures give some ammunition to the doves. The fall in CPI inflation to 4.2 per cent in June (from 4.5 per cent) ensures there was no overshoot in inflation in the second quarter relative to the Bank’s may inflation report.
Much of inflation’s still high level reflects price rises quite a long time ago, so it makes sense to look (below) at a chart of annualised quarter-on-quarter inflation with rudimentary seasonal ajustment to see whether the inflation scare is past.
I drew this chart so blame me if it makes no sense, but it also gives some succour to doves.