The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

In February Jerome Powell takes over as chair of the Federal Reserve, succeeding Janet Yellen. His first order of business should be to get the Fed off its silly, outdated and nonsensical monetary policy target of 2% inflation. He and the other members of the Federal Open Market Committee should at the very least change the inflation target number, or, better yet, find a different measuring stick altogether.

One of the Fed’s mandates, we know, is to keep inflation “stable,” as noted on the Fed’s website, citing the Federal Reserve Act (the other two mandates are achieving maximum employment and moderate long-term interest rates). The current Fed has taken to defining price stability as 2% inflation. Given that the Fed already basically believes it has accomplished the other two objectives, and price inflation has been nothing but rock-solid stable for several years, it’s not clear why it’s still so determined to get inflation up to that 2% target rate, and letting that dictate its monetary policy. If prices are stable at about 1.5%, rather than 2%, doesn’t that meet the mandate, as long as prices are stable?

During the Great Depression of the 1930s the lack of inflation – more accurately, deflation – was a big problem, feeding the downward spiral in the economy for more than ten years. Since then, economists, both on the Fed and elsewhere, have been absolutely terrified of that happening again, even though we haven’t come close to it, not even during the depths of the recent Great Recession. Now that we have seemed to have finally pulled out of the last financial crisis, it’s time to put that deflation obsession to rest. Continue reading "The Fed's 2018 New Year's Resolution"

Fleeing The Fed Ship

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, has become the latest senior Fed official to announce his retirement. He follows Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, who announced his intention to resign in September, and Daniel Tarullo, the central bank's top financial regulator, who announced his resignation back in February.

Of course, the biggest departure at the Fed was one that wasn’t voluntary, namely President Trump decision not to renominate Janet Yellen for another term as Fed chair, ignoring 40 years of precedent to reappoint a sitting Fed chief. Instead, of course, he nominated Fed governor Jerome Powell to replace her when her four-year term ends in February. Still, Yellen is entitled to finish her 14-year term as a member of the Fed’s Board of Governors, which doesn’t expire for another seven years, on January 31, 2024, although her staying on would also be unprecedented.
All told, there are now three open seats on the seven-member Board of Governors, which of course may rise to four if Yellen elects to leave.

It’s pertinent to ask, then: What are all the departures at the Fed, both voluntary and involuntarily, signaling? Is it simply senior officials graciously moving aside to let a new president get a chance to pick his own people? Or is there something more sinister afoot, namely, do they indicate that a big change in the market is about to occur and they want to get out before the chickens come home to roost? Continue reading "Fleeing The Fed Ship"

Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms

George Yacik - Contributor - Fed & Interest Rates

I’ve been pretty harsh in this column on Federal Reserve monetary policy, but the one area that I haven’t written much about– financial regulation – is probably the main area where the Fed does deserve a lot of credit.

In her speech at the Jackson Hole symposium late last week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen probably disappointed a lot of market watchers for her failure to talk about interest rates or unwinding the Fed’s balance sheet. Instead, she spent most of her speech defending the Fed’s actions in the regulatory realm in the wake of the global financial crisis and pushed back against critics who want to roll back those regulations, including President Trump, who vowed that he wants to “do a big number” on Dodd-Frank.

If Yellen wants to be reappointed to her position by Trump when it ends in February, she certainly didn’t sound like it. Then again, making comments in opposition to Trump is hardly a heroic stance.

Still, she deserves credit for defending the Fed’s position on bank regulation, and the next Fed chair, whether it’s Yellen, Gary Cohn, or someone else, should stick with the current policy, which will go a long way toward keeping our banking system safe and secure and make sure that the global financial crisis doesn’t repeat itself. After all, if you can’t trust keeping your money in a bank, nothing else matters. Continue reading "Fed Can't Backtrack On Regulatory Reforms"