Sunday, December 10, 2006

Should the Fed look at Cutting Rates?

Has the Fed achieved the balance of growth and inflation allowing the U.S. economy to have a short term mid cycle slowdown? Or is it relying too much on lagging indicators, leaving rates too high ,and inverting the yield curve longer than necessary? This Wall Street Journal article compares the current economic cycle and Fed Policy with 2000-2001.

Fed Is HamperedBy Past in Effort To Sound Warning

"WASHINGTON -- Federal Reserve officials -- unlike bond investors -- think the economy is a lot sounder today than at the end of 2000 and in early 2001, when the Fed abruptly reversed course and began a string of interest-rate cuts.

Yet Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's effort to convey the message that today's conditions are different is hampered by the Fed's lack of candor back in 2000.

Fed officials, who have universally voiced concerns about inflation, are expected to keep short-term interest rates steady at 5.25% at their policy meeting next Tuesday. But bond markets have priced in a small chance of a rate cut next week and three one-quarter percentage-point cuts over the next 12 months.
Markets anticipate those cuts in part because they see parallels to 2000. A technology-stock and investment bust began to unfold in the summer of that year, yet in November the Fed still said its principal concern was inflation, not economic growth. Seven weeks later, with stock prices tumbling and businesses canceling investment plans, the Fed made the first of 13 interest-rate cuts....
.....Fed officials thus appear content with a forecast of moderate growth over the next few quarters, then a rebound in mid-2007. "I don't think that the data we have seen are out of line" with that forecast, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Michael Moskow said Monday on
Skeptics think that is bluster. "They're paid to worry about inflation, which means that until the slowdown is obvious and undeniable, they will stick to their forecasts," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a report last week, citing the similarity to late 2000....
....Transcripts of the Fed's November 2000 meeting offer grist for the skeptics. Fed officials at the time saw ample reason to shift from their assessment that higher inflation represented a greater risk to the economy than did weaker growth, to a view that the two risks were balanced. "The balance of risks has shifted quite noticeably," then-Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson said..."

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