Even with all the discussion of the implications of China’s Move to Devalue the Yuan, it has been widely accepted that a policy of firming easy money would probably still move forward. But this could prove more challenging for the Fed given the variegated opinions among policy makers:
Officials have signaled for months they intend to start raising short-term rates from near-zero interest before year-end. But they have provided no clear sign of having settled on whether to move at their next policy meeting Sept. 16-17. Minutes of their July 28-29 meeting, released Wednesday, underscored why the decision remains a close call.
“Most [officials] judged that the conditions for policy firming had not yet been achieved, but they noted that conditions were approaching that point,” the minutes said.
That passage might be read as a hint that officials saw a September rate increase in the cards, but the minutes showed officials had wide-ranging views about taking that step and several notable sources of trepidation.
The Fed has said it won’t move rates until it is more confident inflation will rise toward its 2% target after running below it for more than three years. “Some participants expressed the view that the incoming information had not yet provided grounds for reasonable confidence that inflation would move back to 2 percent over the medium term,” the minutes said.
The conundrum is self obviating: move too fast, and you are going to tank this forward moving, but tepid recovery. Do nothing, and you might have fueled yet another bubble. And there are voices calling for action citing the need for credibility, confidence and timing, others, for caution:
Other developments are giving Fed officials new reason for caution. At the July meeting they noted China’s stock-market declines; since then Chinese officials have allowed their currency to depreciate, a new source of concern about the growth outlook in the world’s second largest economy.
U.S. crude oil prices hit a six-year low Wednesday and U.S. stocks tumbled, boosting demand for ultrasafe U.S. government debt. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.129% from 2.196% on Tuesday and marks the yield’s lowest closing level since May 29. A gauge of 10-year inflation expectations in the bond market fell to the lowest level since January.
So back to the conundrum. Wait and by implication, call into question the health of the U.S. economy, or move forward and see if the economy “would be able to absorb higher interest rates and that inflation was moving toward the committee’s objective.” That’s life in the big chair.