There may be a rate hike around the next bend in the calendar after all. Or maybe not. Like the possibility of rain next Tuesday or peace in the Middle East over the next 50 years, you can’t rule anything out. Ruling it in isn’t a slam-dunk, but today’s lineup of Fed officials on the media-go-round want you to know that tighter monetary policy before the year is out isn’t impossible.
“I think the key question is, are we going to get sufficient growth in the economy, put downward pressure on the unemployment rate, get an acceleration in wages?” William Dudley, New York Fed president, told CNBC earlier today. “If we get that, I’ll be reasonably confident in inflation returning to 2 percent.”
In other words, if the economic numbers are strong enough, monetary policy will react accordingly. And if the economy turns out to be weaker than expected? Well, monetary policy will react accordingly.
And just to be clear, Dudley also said that while he’s anticipating a rate hike this year, he told the crowd that “it’s a forecast, and we’re going to get a lot of data between now and December. So it’s not a commitment.”
Got it? Good. Now let’s move on to the next source of monetary enlightenment.
Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart today advised that “the economy remains on a satisfactory track, and, speaking for myself, I see a liftoff decision later this year at the October or December FOMC meetings as likely appropriate.” It’s not absolute, of course, which is why a particular course of action is required until further notice via the incoming numbers. To be precise, “the ambiguity of the moment reinforces the need to closely watch the vital signs of the economy over the coming weeks to determine if the outlook has changed,” Lockhart explained.
What have we learned? Managing monetary policy requires a keen grasp of the obvious. Long naps in the afternoon are frowned upon.
The bottom line: a rate hike may be near. But if it isn’t, it’s likely that there’ll be an economic explanation for the delay. Any other questions?