March 29, 2019 / 1:07 PM / 4 months ago

Kashkari says yield curve shows Fed may have gone too far

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari said on Friday that the yield curve, which to his surprise inverted earlier this week, shows investors believe growth will slow and may be signaling the Fed has tightened policy too far.

President of the Federal Reserve Bank on Minneapolis Neel Kashkari speaks during an interview in New York, U.S., March 29, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Kashkari said that while he opposed the Fed’s recent rate increases, a recession for the United States is not his base case this year, though the risks are elevated.

“A big question mark that we wrestle with is what interest rate represents neutral... I do think it’s giving us feedback on where neutral is” Kashkari said. “Have we gone above neutral? I still don’t think we have but it’s certainly possible and I don’t think we should be at a contractionary stance.”

The yield on U.S. three-month bills exceeded that on 10-year notes last week for the first time in over a decade. This so-called inverted yield curve is seen as a warning that a recession may follow in the next one to two years.

Asked if there could be a recession in 2020, Kashkari said he believes the recession odds are elevated, based on the signals from the yield curve. “But it’s not my base case,” he added.

“My base case is still for continued economic growth.... just slower growth” than 2018, he said. But there is still uncertainty on the outlook, he said, and “that’s why I think our current posture of pausing to get more data makes a lot of sense.”

The Fed earlier this month held its target range for short-term rates steady at 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, and most policymakers forecast there would be no need for rates to rise for the rest of this year.

That is a stance Kashkari has had for years, as he has pushed colleagues to see slow wage growth and muted inflation as signs the labor market still has slack, despite an unemployment rate that is now 3.8 percent.

Asked if a rate cut would be in order, Kashkari demurred.

“I don’t think it would be healthy for us to be chasing the market,” he said. “We need to get more data to see what’s really happening before we make any policy shifts.”

Kashkari said he will be looking at jobs and wage growth, GDP, and consumer and business spending to gauge how the economy is faring and what the Fed should do next.

Wage growth has been accelerating for lower-paid jobs, he said, and that bodes well for consumer spending in the future.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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