Rates Are Going Up, In 2024 At The Earliest

Today’s Fed meeting and subsequent statement from Fed Chair Powell spelled out a major change in Fed Policy that has been discussed this year: allowing inflation to “run” at or above their long stated 2% target without immediately raising rates. The old guidance, first announced in 2012, was that the Fed was targeting inflation rising to 2% or unemployment dropping to 5% and would increase rates if those thresholds were met. The “old normal” of pre-Great Recession economic theory was that crossing those thresholds meant that an overheating economy would spur inflation (see early 80’s Volker era). As the last decade has given way to the “new normal” whereby ultra low unemployment and interest rates has not resulted in inflation. The Fed is now saying that inflation can go to 2% and above for a while. Today’s statement “(The Fed) will aim to achieve inflation moderately above 2 percent for some time so that inflation averages 2 percent over time and longer-term inflation expectations remain well anchored at 2 percent.” And when does the Fed see inflation running consistently at 2%? According to their forecast released today, it won’t be until well into 2023 at the earliest. Allowing for “run-time”, this puts the next “lift-off” of rates into 2024. Powell indicated that “highly accommodative” policy (zero rates, bond purchases, etc) “until the economy is far along in this recovery”. It begs the question, when will inflation return and what will it look like in this era? Powell also said that a “closely trusted” vaccine is critical to the economic recovery and that the Fed is not “out of ammo” as far as tools to aid the recovery. So, stimulative monetary policy is a given in today’s world. What about the more difficult issue of stimulative fiscal policy, which requires consensus in Washington? Today was the most optimistic day for months in that regard as the Administration and Congress leaders both signaled lots of common ground complete with conciliatory rhetoric, let’s see what tomorrow brings. Stay tuned. By David R. Pascale, Jr. , Senior Vice President at George Smith Partners

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