“Transitory” Inflation Shuts Down Rate Cut Talk

Today’s Fed announcement and press conference came in the wake of the latest Personal Consumption Expenditure report indicated a slowing rate of inflation (1.6% vs the 2.0% target). Which begs the “macro” question: Is the long standing (pre-crash) relationship between “full” employment and inflation broken? And if so, is it appropriate for the Fed to cut rates during a period of full employment? The Fed is in the spotlight with recent speculation and high profile pressure on them to do just that. The Fed did not cut rates today and Chairman Powell mentioned “transitory” factors artificially lowering the inflation stats. He cited anomalies in the calculation such as apparel prices (new methodology and unusually low prices) and financial services/portfolio management. This is reminiscent of Fed Chair Yellen’s discussion of “temporary” low cell phone fees dragging down inflation in early 2017. Powell also indicated “no reason to raise or lower the rate”, he may feel that we are at the long sought “neutral” rate and we are finally “there”(not everyone in Washington agrees). Stay tuned.
By David R. Pascale, Jr. , Senior Vice President at George Smith Partners