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Fed Chair Yellen has a mini revolt on her hands

Fed Chair Yellen has a mini revolt on her hands

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has something of a mini revolt on her hands.

Four of the 17 members of the Federal Open Market Committee have now publicly indicated their disagreement with the dovish guidance in last week's policy statement and in comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen at her press conference.

The latest dissenter is Patrick Harker, the new president of the Philadelphia Fed, who said in a speech Tuesday night that the Fed should "get on with" rate hikes and consider another move in April.

He joins centrists John Williams of San Francisco and Dennis Lockhart of Atlanta who earlier this week said the Fed should consider an April hike. Esther George, the Kansas City Fed president who is thought to be among the more hawkish Fed members, dissented at the meeting last week and called for a 25 basis point hike.

Only one of the four dissenters is a voter this year, suggesting that Yellen has the votes she needs if she wants to keep rates unchanged at the April meeting.

But their viewpoints raise questions about just how secure those votes are and whether other hawkish members of the FOMC, for example Loretta Mester of Cleveland, or even Fed Vice Chair Stanley Fischer, could be leaning toward a hike next month. They also present something of a public challenge to Yellen's leadership.

While Yellen said at her press conference that April, like all meetings, was a live meeting, she otherwise indicated she was wary of rate hikes in the near future.

"Proceeding cautiously in removing policy accommodation at this time will allow us to verify that the labor market is continuing to strengthen despite the risks from abroad," Yellen said.

"Such caution is appropriate given that short-term interest rates are still near zero, which means that monetary policy has greater scope to respond to upside than to downside changes in the outlook."

In its policy statement, the Fed raised its level of concern over global economic weakness and declined to say whether the risks were balanced toward stronger or weaker economic growth. Some observers believe the Fed needs to asses the risks as balanced before it will hike again.

In addition, the average number of rate hikes forecast this year by FOMC members declined to just two from four. The combination of the statements, Yellen's press conference and changes to the rate outlook led markets to price in a rate hike only as soon as September, where it previously had pegged June.

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