SF Fed President Maps the Path Toward Neutral Policy, Not Banking On “Peak Inflation”Posted: April 22, 2022
More hawkish, anti-inflation commentary from Fed Chair Jerome Powell got top billing today in financial markets. While Powell said nothing new or surprising, he got the blame for a downdraft in stock markets. However, the head of the San Francisco Federal Reserve caught more attention for Inflation Watch. In a great scoop for Yahoo Finance, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly gave a 15-minute interview discussing her stance on monetary policy. Daly crisply aligned with the new hawkish mood on the Fed. At the same time, she provided clear guidance on the Fed’s objectives and assessments of the current inflationary economy. I recommend watching the video embedded in the article. Otherwise, here are the key highlights and take-aways as you get ready for the May Fed meeting.
- “The Fed is expeditiously marching towards neutral. It is clear the economy doesn’t need the accommodation that we’re providing” – notice the recognition that current policy is over-stimulative. Maintaining an easy money policy while the economy is strong is not only bad policy, but also doing so increases inflation risks.
- “The neutral rate is about 2.5% by the end of the year” – this statement sets the stage for several 50 basis point rate hikes this year given rates are still at a paltry 0.25%-0.50%.
- “We don’t want to go so quickly or so abruptly that we surprise Americans and make them have to adjust quickly…” – the Fed never likes to create downside surprises, only upside ones. Indeed, Daly observed that tightening financial conditions are already tapping on the economy’s brakes. She pointed to mortgage rates as a prime example; a notable reference given a hot housing market is at the center of the Fed’s concerns.
- Daly insisted that the Fed can pull off a soft-landing.
- Daly cautioned that predicting “peak inflation” is “fraught with peril” given on-going COVID shutdowns in China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- “High inflation is as bad for workers as not having a job” – in other words, the Fed cannot afford to allow inflation to erode spending power on a sustained basis.
- The Fed funds rate is more precise than and better known for moving monetary policy.
Compare Daly’s comments to this key quote from Powell today:
“It may be that the actual [inflation] peak was in March, but we don’t know that, so we’re not going to count on it…We’re really going to be raising rates and getting expeditiously to levels that are more neutral and then that are actually tight … if that turns out to be appropriate once we get there.”
The Fed is all-aboard the anti-inflation locomotive!