Minneapolis Fed's Kocherlakota, who is not scheduled to speak today, and who in the past has exhibited both hawkish and dovish tendencies is on the wire, saying the the Fed Funds rate may need to rise 75 bps by late 2011. He is also quoted as saying that QE2 boosted inflation expectations more than he anticipated (oh look, another confirmation of Fed ineptitude but only in retrospect), and that higher short-term rates certainly possible in late 2011. In other words, the hawks in the Fed are once again getting very vocal... Just like in March of 2010, and before the market tanked, opening the door for QE2, and when all the hawks kept their mouths shut.
Narayana Kocherlakota, in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal, said that if the U.S. economy grows at about 3% this year, as he expects, and underlying inflation ticks higher, as he expects, then the Fed will end its $600 billion bond-buying program as planned in June.
He expects core inflation (inflation excluding volatile food and energy prices) will rise from about 0.8% late last year, when the Fed launched its bond-buying to about 1.3% by year end, he said. As a result, lifting the Fed's target for short-term interest rates by more than half a percentage point late this year is "certainly possible." He noted that the often-cited Taylor Rule, named for the Stanford University professor who devised it, would in that circumstance call for a ¾-percentage-point increase in rates.
"If you consider monetary policy was appropriate at the end of 2010...and then you see core inflation go up by 50 basis points over the course of 2011..the usual response that we know from 20 years of thinking about monetary policy (or even more) is to raise the target rate by even more than that increase in observed inflation," he said. "So that means you should be raising the target rate by more than 50 basis points."
The Fed dropped its short-term interest-rate target nearly to zero in December 2008 during the financial crisis, and promised to keep it there for "an extended period." Trading in futures suggests markets anticipate a Fed increase to 0.5% early in 2012.
Mr. Kocherlakota is one of the five regional Fed presidents with a vote on monetary policy this year, along with the Washington-based Fed governors. He is a swing voter on the Fed's policy committee, who isn't clearly aligned either with hawkish Fed officials who tend to favor tighter credit or dovish members who tend to favor looser credit
Two other regional Fed presidents with votes—Charles Plosser of Philadelphia and Richard Fisher of Dallas—have expressed concerns about inflation and suggested they would favor raising rates in the near future.
The Minneapolis Fed president, a former academic, said he expects a "pretty big upward movement" in core inflation—that is inflation excluding volatile food and energy—which he considers the best predictor of where overall inflation is.
Mr. Kocherlakota also said that the Fed's second-round of bond buying, known as QE2 for "quantitative easing," was more potent than he anticipated when he and other Fed officials launched it last year. It raised near-term inflation expectations, then dangerously low in his view, by more than he anticipated, measured by financial market indicators.
Mr. Kocherlakota said when the Fed decides to tighten monetary policy, he favors raising short-term interest rates over selling assets by the Fed's portfolio, primarily because the Fed has a firmer understanding of how interest rates affect the economy.