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Fed's Brainard Says Soft Inflation May Warrant Rate Rethink

Traders Magazine Online News, May 31, 2017

John D'Antona Jr.

The following article appeared on Bloomberg

Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said soft inflation could cause her to reassess the path forward for monetary policy should it linger, even as the global economic outlook brightens and U.S. growth looks poised to rebound.

“If the soft inflation data persist, that would be concerning and, ultimately, could lead me to reassess the appropriate path of policy,” Brainard said in prepared remarks Tuesday. She said her baseline expectation is that “it likely will be appropriate soon to adjust the federal funds rate” and start shrinking the balance sheet.

Brainard’s remarks underline a puzzle facing the U.S. central bank. Joblessness has fallen to a post-crisis low and consumer confidence is strong, yet price pressures have cooled, which could make the Fed’s coming discussions more complicated. Policy makers lifted rates in March and have penciled in two more 2017 rate increases, and investors expect the first of those to come in June.

“I see some tension between signs that the economy is in the neighborhood of full employment and indications that the tentative progress we had seen on inflation may be slowing,” Brainard said. “If the tension between the progress on employment and the lack of progress on inflation persists, it may lead me to reassess the expected path of the federal funds rate in the future, although it is premature to make that call today.”

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