FOMC Minutes Show Many Members Believe Rates Should Rise Sooner

These are the minutes from when the Fed toned down deflation fears and raised concerns over labor slack, and expectations going in were for a slightly more hawkish tone from the minutes (and perhaps commentary on financial stability - bubbles - and exit strategies). This is what we got:

  • *MANY FED OFFICIALS SAID JOB GAINS MIGHT BRING RATE RISE SOONER
  • *FOMC AGREED BALANCE SHEET SHOULD BE CUT GRADUALLY, PREDICTABLY
  • *SOME FOMC PARTICIPANTS MORE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH FORWARD GUIDANCE

Sounds pretty hawkish to us...

Pre-FOMC Minutes: S&P Futs 1982.5, 10Y 2.4175%, Gold $1294 , USDJPY 103.40, Oil $95.40

The key section from the minutes:

With respect to monetary policy over the medium run, participants generally agreed that labor market conditions and inflation had moved closer to the Committee’s longer-run objectives in recent months, and most anticipated that progress toward those goals would continue. Moreover, many participants noted that if convergence toward the Committee’s objectives occurred more quickly than expected, it might become appropriate to begin removing monetary policy accommodation sooner than they currently anticipated. Indeed, some participants viewed the actual and expected progress  toward the Committee’s goals as sufficient to call for a relatively prompt move toward reducing policy accommodation to avoid overshooting the Committee’s unemployment and inflation objectives over the medium term. These participants were increasingly uncomfortable with the Committee’s forward guidance. In their view, the guidance suggested a later initial increase in the target federal funds rate as well as lower future levels of the funds rate than they judged likely to be appropriate. They suggested that the guidance should more clearly communicate how policy-setting would respond to  the evolution of economic data.

Here is the Fed on the topic of labor slack, or focusing on any and every incremental weakness in the labor market now that all of the Fed's targets have been reached and it is Yellens' job to pound the table on the weaknesses to "justify" ongoing ZIRP:

... some members expressed reservations about describing the extent of underutilization in labor resources more broadly. In particular, they worried that the degree of labor market slack was difficult to characterize succinctly and that the statement language might prove difficult to adjust as labor market conditions continued to improve. Moreover, they were concerned that, despite the improvement in labor market conditions, the new language might be misinterpreted as indicating increased concern about underutilization of labor resources. At the conclusion of the discussion, the Committee agreed to  state that labor market conditions had improved, with the unemployment rate declining further, while also stating that a range of labor market indicators suggested that there remained significant underutilization of labor resources. Many members noted, however, that the characterization of labor market underutilization might have to change before long, particularly if progress in the labor market continued to be faster than anticipated.

Here is the Fed on missing the winter weather forecast:

In particular, although participants generally saw the drop in real GDP in the first quarter as transitory, some noted that it increased uncertainty about the outlook, and they were looking to additional data on production, spending, and labor market developments to shed light on the underlying pace of economic growth. Moreover, despite recent inflation developments, several participants continued to believe that inflation was likely to move back to the Committee’s objective very slowly, thereby warranting a continuation of highly accommodative policy as long as projected inflation remained below 2 percent and longer-term inflation expectations were well anchored.

Here is the Fed lamenting the worst.recovery.ever. and still unable to grasp that it is the Fed's fault there is no recovery for 90% of the population:

Labor compensation was still rising only modestly. Many participants continued to attribute the subdued rise in wages to the remaining slack in the labor market; it was noted that the elevated level of relatively low-paid part-time workers was holding down overall wage increases. Several other participants pointed to reports that wage pressures had increased in some regions and occupations that were experiencing labor shortages or relatively low unemployment. However, a couple of participants indicated that the pass-through of labor costs has been more attenuated since the mid-1980s and that wage pressures might not be a reliable leading indicator of higher inflation.

And last but certainly not least, and in our opinion, most important, is the fact that the Fed still has no idea just how it will "unwind" ZIRP, let alone QE:

Most participants anticipated that, at least initially, the IOER rate would be set at the top of the target range for the federal funds rate, and the ON RRP rate would be set at the bottom of the federal funds target range. Alternatively, some participants suggested the ON RRP rate could be set below the bottom of the federal funds target range, judging that it might be possible to begin the normalization process with minimal or no reliance on an ON RRP facility and increase its role only if necessary. However, many other participants thought that such a strategy might result in insufficient control of money market rates at liftoff, which could cause confusion about the likely path of monetary policy or raise questions about the Committee’s ability to implement policy effectively.

Which leads to the following:

Participants ... stressed the importance of communicating a clear plan while at the same time noting the importance of maintaining flexibility so that adjustments to the normalization approach could be made as the situation changed and in light of experience. Participants requested additional analysis from the staff on issues related to normalization as background for further discussion at their next meeting. A few participants also suggested that the Committee should solicit additional information from the public regarding the possible effects of an ON RRP facility, but some others pointed out that the Committee would continue to receive such feedback informally in response to its ongoing communications regarding normalization.

Yep: the Fed will ask the banks how to exit the mess it has created to bailout the banks. In other words, don't hold you breath for a ZIRP end any time soon. But don't worry, the Fed will let you know long in advance of a rate hike it will do so:

Participants agreed that the Committee should provide additional information to the public regarding the details of normalization well before most participants anticipate the first steps in reducing policy accommodation to become appropriate.

Funny stuff, but nothing ever beats this: "As a result, they generally saw the vulnerabilities in the financial system as well contained."

Full minutes:

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