September 5, 2018 / 1:25 PM / in a month

Fed's Bullard makes case again for halting interest rate rises

(Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve should hold off on further interest rate rises because the stance of monetary policy is already at neutral or possibly restrictive, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks about the U.S. economy during an interview in New York February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Bullard has repeatedly raised the alarm over the central bank’s plan to keep raising its benchmark lending rate and pointed to financial market signals as the best indicator of how policymakers should proceed.

“U.S. monetary policymakers should put more weight than usual on financial market signals in the current macroeconomic environment,” Bullard said in prepared remarks to a financial market conference in New York. “Handled properly, current financial market information can provide the basis for a better forward-looking monetary policy strategy.”

Those signals, such as the yield curve on U.S. Treasuries, suggest investors see slower growth after this year and no danger of inflation ahead.

An inverted yield curve, when short-term borrowing costs rise above long-term ones, has preceded nearly every U.S. recession in recent times. Bullard expects an inversion late this year or next.

Bullard’s colleagues, however, look set to continue with increase borrowing costs with part of the rationale being that the low unemployment rate and strengthening economic growth should spur a rise in inflation.

The Fed’s preferred measure of inflation has finally reached the Fed’s 2 percent target rate this year after more than six years of undershooting it.

Investors fully expect an interest rate rise at the Fed’s next policy meeting on Sept. 25-26, and again in December. The central bank has already lifted rates twice this year.

But focusing on a theoretical relationship between low unemployment and a subsequent rise in inflation to guide monetary policy is erroneous, according to Bullard.

“One of the great strengths of financial market information is that markets are forward-looking and have taken into account all available information when determining prices,” he said.

Reporting by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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