Speak now or hold your peace until September 22.
Today marks the last day of speeches from Federal Reserve officials before they gather to discuss monetary policy and a potential rate hike at the Sept. 20-21 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.
Given that low unemployment has failed to increase inflation “the case to tighten policy preemptively is less compelling,” Brainard said.
“My main point here is that in the presence of uncertainty and the absence of accelerating inflationary pressures, it would be unwise for policy to foreclose on the possibility of making further gains in the labor market,” she added.
The speech, which was announced late last week, was highly anticipated as some expected that Brainard, a noted dove, might take on a hawkish tone to raise market expectations for tightening at the September meeting, but this was not the case.
“Asymmetry in risk management in today’s new normal counsels prudence in the removal of policy accommodation,” Brainard said, noting that the risk of being unable to respond to unexpected economic weakness is greater than the risk of inflation spiking due to strength in demand.
Brainard added that in the current environment the “federal funds rate is less accommodative today than it would have been 10 years ago.”
The unemployment rate has hovered around 5% for the past year, a level many economists consider to be near full employment. However, core PCE inflation remains at 1.6%, below the Fed’s 2% target.
Recent economic data has also been mixed, with the ISM manufacturing index contracting in August and the ISM services index slowing to the weakest pace in six years.
After Brainard’s speech, market expectations for a September rate hike dropped to 15% with the majority of traders forecasting a rate hike by the end of the year.
Brainard was one of three Fed speakers today and one of ten in the past two weeks. Here are the most recent comments from other Fed officials on the economy and interest rate path (FOMC voters are bolded):
Neel Kashkari on September 12th: “There doesn’t appear to be a huge urgency to do anything.”
Dennis Lockhart on September 12th: “If 1.6 percent inflation and 4.9 percent unemployment were all you knew about the economy, would you consider a policy setting one tick above the zero lower bound still appropriate? …I think circumstances call for a lively discussion next week.” However, he later added that there was no urgency to act at any particular meeting.
Eric Rosengren on September 9th: “A reasonable case can be made for continuing to pursue a gradual normalization of monetary policy…a failure to continue on the path of gradual removal of accommodation could shorten the duration of this recovery. “
Robert Kaplan on September 9th: The Fed can afford to be “patient and deliberate in its actions.”
Daniel Tarullo on September 9th: “I wouldn’t foreclose that possibility [of raising rates this year]… What is optimal right now is to look to see actual evidence that the inflation rate would continue to go up and would be sustained at around the target.”
Jeffrey Lacker on September 7th: “It looks like the case for a rate increase is going to be strong in September.”
John Williams on September 6th: “[It] makes sense to get back to a pace of gradual rate increases, preferably sooner rather than later.”
Loretta Mester September 1: “If you have a forecast and inflation is moving up to your target and you’re at full employment, then it seems like a gradual increase from a very low interest rate is pretty compelling to me. Pre-emptiveness is important.”
Charles Evans on August 31st: “If necessary, we could normalize policy much faster than currently envisioned and still keep the pace gradual enough to avoid a disorderly change in financial conditions.”
Stanley Fischer on August 26: Fischer noted that Yellen’s comments (earlier in the day) were consistent with a move in September and possibly two hikes this year.
Janet Yellen on August 26: “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.”
Jerome Powell on August 26: “We can afford to be patient…when we see progress toward 2% inflation and a tightening labor market, and growth strong enough to support all that, we should take the opportunity [to raise rates].”
James Bullard on August 26th: “I’m agnostic on exactly when we [raise rates]”
Esther George on August 25th: “When I look at where we are with the job market, when I look at inflation and our forecast for that, I think it’s time to move.”
William Dudley on August 16th: “We’re edging closer towards the point in time where it’ll be appropriate to raise interest rates further.”
Patrick Harker has been quiet about his stance on a rate hike, but he did vote to increase the Fed’s discount rate in July.