Wednesday, February 21, 2018

USA Economy - Core inflation would reach 2 % in 2019 and that total inflation would be at the Committee's 2% objective in 2020..- FED

Press Release - February 21, 2018 - Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, January 30-31, 2018

Developments in Financial Markets and Open Market Operations
The manager of the System Open Market Account (SOMA) provided a summary of developments in domestic and global financial markets over the intermeeting period. Financial conditions eased further over recent weeks with market participants pointing to increasing appetites for risk and perceptions of diminished downside risks as factors buoying market sentiment. In this environment, yields on safe assets such as U.S. 

Treasury securities moved up some while corporate risk spreads narrowed and equity prices recorded further significant gains. Breakeven measures of inflation compensation derived from Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) moved up but remained low. Survey measures of longer-term inflation expectations showed little change. Judging from interest rate futures, the expected path of the federal funds rate shifted up over the period but continued to imply a gradual expected pace of policy firming. The deputy manager followed with a discussion of recent developments in money markets and FOMC operations. Year-end pressures were evident in the market for foreign exchange basis swaps, but conditions returned to normal early in 2018. 

Yields on Treasury bills maturing in early March were elevated, reflecting investors' concerns about the possibility that a failure to raise the federal debt ceiling could affect the timing of principal payments for these securities. The Open Market Desk continued to execute reinvestment operations for Treasury and agency securities in the SOMA in accordance with the procedure specified in the Committee's directive to the Desk. The deputy manager also reported on the volume of overnight reverse repurchase agreement operations over the intermeeting period and discussed the Desk's plans for small-value operational tests of various types of open market operations over the coming year.

By unanimous vote, the Committee ratified the Open Market Desk's domestic transactions over the intermeeting period. There were no intervention operations in foreign currencies for the System's account during the intermeeting period.

Inflation Analysis and Forecasting

The staff presented three briefings on inflation analysis and forecasting. The presentations reviewed a number of commonly used structural and reduced-form models. These included structural models in which the rate of inflation is linked importantly to measures of resource slack and a measure of expected inflation relevant for wage and price setting--so-called Phillips curve specifications--as well as statistical models in which inflation is primarily determined by a time-varying inflation trend or longer-run inflation expectations. The briefings noted several factors beyond those captured in the models that appeared to have put downward pressure on prices in recent years. These included structural changes in price setting for some items, such as medical care, and the effects of idiosyncratic price shocks, such as the unusual drop in prices of wireless telephone services in 2017. The staff found little compelling evidence for the possible influence of other factors such as a more competitive pricing environment or a change in the markup of prices over unit labor costs. Overall, for the set of models presented, the prediction errors in recent years were larger than those observed during the 2001-07 period but were consistent with historical norms and, in most models, did not appear to be biased.

The staff presentations considered two key channels by which monetary policy influences inflation--the response of inflation to changes in resource utilization and the role of inflation expectations, or trend inflation, in the price-setting process. In part because inflation was importantly influenced by a number of short-lived factors, the effects of current and expected resource utilization gaps on inflation were not easy to discern empirically. Estimates of the strength of those effects had diminished noticeably in recent years. The briefings highlighted a number of other challenges associated with estimating the strength and timing of the linkage between resource utilization and inflation, including the reliability of and changes over time in estimates of the natural rate of unemployment and potential output and the ability to adequately account for supply shocks. In addition, some research suggested that the relationship between resource utilization and inflation may be nonlinear, with the response of inflation increasing as rates of utilization rise to very high levels.

With regard to inflation expectations, two of the briefings presented findings that the longer-run trend in inflation, absent cyclical disturbances or transitory fluctuations, had been stable in recent years at a little below 2 percent. The briefings reported that the average forecasting performance of models employing either statistical estimates of inflation trends or survey-based measures of inflation expectations as proxies for inflation expectations appeared comparable, even though different versions of such models could yield very different forecasts at any given point in time. Moreover, al­though survey-based measures of longer-run inflation expectations tended to move in parallel with estimated inflation trends, the empirical research provided no clear guidance on how to construct a measure of inflation expectations that would be the most useful for inflation forecasting. The staff noted that al­though reduced-form models in which inflation tends to revert toward longer-run inflation trends described the data reasonably well, those models offered little guidance to policymakers on how to conduct policy so as to achieve their desired outcome for inflation.

Following the staff presentations, participants discussed how the inflation frameworks reviewed in the briefings informed their views on inflation and monetary policy. Almost all participants who commented agreed that a Phillips curve-type of inflation framework remained useful as one of their tools for understanding inflation dynamics and informing their decisions on monetary policy. Policymakers pointed to a number of possible reasons for the difficulty in estimating the link between resource utilization and inflation in recent years. These reasons included an extended period of low and stable inflation in the United States and other advanced economies during which the effects of resource utilization on inflation became harder to identify, the shortcomings of commonly used measures of resource gaps, the effects of transitory changes in relative prices, and structural factors that had made business pricing more competitive or prices more flexible over time. It was noted that research focusing on inflation across U.S. states or metropolitan areas continued to find a significant relationship between price or wage inflation and measures of resource gaps. A couple of participants questioned the usefulness of a Phillips curve-type framework for policymaking, citing the limited ability of such frameworks to capture the relationship between economic activity and inflation.

Participants generally agreed that inflation expectations played a fundamental role in understanding and forecasting inflation, with stable inflation expectations providing an important anchor for the rate of inflation over the longer run. Participants acknowledged that the causes of movements in short- and longer-run inflation expectations, including the role of monetary policy, were imperfectly understood. They commented that various proxies for inflation expectations--readings from household and business surveys or from economic forecasters, estimates derived from market prices, or estimated trends--were imperfect measures of actual inflation expectations, which are unobservable. That said, participants emphasized the critical need for the FOMC to maintain a credible longer-run inflation objective and to clearly communicate the Committee's commitment to achieving that objective. Several participants indicated that they viewed the available evidence as suggesting that longer-run inflation expectations remained well anchored; one cited recent research finding that inflation expectations had become better anchored following the Committee's adoption of a numerical inflation target. 

However, a few saw low levels of inflation over recent years as reflecting, in part, slippage in longer-run inflation expectations below the Committee's 2 percent objective. In that regard, a number of participants noted the importance of continuing to emphasize that the Committee's 2 percent inflation objective is symmetric. A couple of participants suggested that the Committee might consider expressing its objective as a range rather than a point estimate. A few other participants suggested that the FOMC could begin to examine whether adopting a monetary policy framework in which the Committee would strive to make up for past deviations of inflation from target might address the challenge of achieving and maintaining inflation expectations consistent with the Committee's inflation objective, particularly in an environment in which the neutral rate of interest appeared likely to remain low.

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