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Dallas Fed President wants 'no further action' on rates

Brian Cheung
Reporter

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan wants greater clarity on the economy before the central bank moves further on rates.

In a post Tuesday, Kaplan said the Fed “should take no further action” on the benchmark interest rate until policymakers gets more detail on uncertainty facing the U.S. economy and the financial system.

“I believe that we are at a critical juncture in terms of monetary policy,” said Kaplan, who is an alternate member of the Federal Open Market Committee. “It is my view that the Fed should be exhibiting patience.”

Responding to the January jobs report, Kaplan wrote that the labor market is “extremely tight.” The blowout report showed 304,000 new non-farm payrolls with unemployment ticking up to 4.0%. Kaplan said the slight increase in unemployment is likely due to the government shutdown, the impacts of which he would expect to “reverse” in the coming months.

Kaplan also said the Fed is “meeting its inflation mandate,” adding that the Fed measured core inflation at about 2% for the 12 months ending in November. Still, he said he expects inflation readings to remain “somewhat muted” in 2019.

Another call for ‘patience’

Although his assessment of the U.S. economy appeared to show no cracks, Kaplan said his call for “patience” is needed in light of decelerating global growth. A slowdown in China, combined with weakness in the euro zone, have dampened expectations for economic growth in 2019. But with U.S. corporate reliance on revenues abroad, Kaplan worries that tepid economic activity overseas will ultimately hurt the U.S., as well.

“If those arrangements are more uncertain due to trade tensions, this can create challenges for domestic firms in managing profit margins and have a chilling effect on capital spending plans by these firms,” Kaplan wrote.

Ultimately, the Dallas Fed projects a base-case for 2019 GDP growth of only 2%.

Kaplan’s use of the word “patience” falls in line with previous Fed speakers who have repeatedly used the buzzword to describe their monetary policy thinking since the new year. In its January 30 policy setting meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell signaled that patience could mean pausing on rate increases.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the banking industry and the intersection of finance and policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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