Three regional Federal Reserve bank presidents said a further decline in U.S. inflation below the Fed’s 2 percent goal may signal a need for more accommodation.
“If inflation looked like it was going to sag further on a persistent basis, I would certainly consider stimulus for the purpose of bringing inflation up to target,” Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, a critic of current easing, said today. Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota today called for guarding the inflation target “from below,” while James Bullard of St. Louis said yesterday, “we should defend the inflation target from the low side.”
Policy makers are expressing concern over disinflation even as some officials such as Lacker advocate curtailing easing by slowing the Fed’s $85 billion monthly pace of bond buying. Consumer prices rose 1.3 percent in February from a year earlier, matching the lowest level since October 2009, according to the Fed’s preferred gauge of inflation.
“The Fed is missing its dual mandate on both sides -- unemployment is too high and inflation is too low,” said Josh Feinman, the New York-based global chief economist for DB Advisors, the Deutsche Bank AG asset manager.
“This simply makes it more likely the Fed will stick with the program for a while and talk of scaling back sales this summer is diminishing, partly because of the inflation data,” said Feinman, a former Fed senior economist in Washington.
Treasury 10-year note yields traded at almost four-month lows as manufacturing data and an index of U.S. leading indicators trailed forecasts, boosting bets the Fed will continue monetary stimulus. The U.S. 10-year yield was 1.68 percent at 12:29 p.m. in New York, declining 0.01 percentage point, according to Bloomberg Bond Trader prices.
The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months fell 0.1 percent in March after climbing 0.5 percent in the prior two months, the New York-based group said today. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 0.1 percent increase.
Also, the Philadelphia Fed’s general economic index fell to 1.3 in April from 2 the prior month, indicating a slower pace of growth. Readings greater than zero signal expansion in the area covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware. Economists surveyed projected a gain to 3.
The Fed said yesterday in its Beige Book economic survey that price increases in the U.S. were “mostly subdued” outside of residential construction, with most of the central bank’s 12 districts showing “minimal” price pressures. Last month, the Federal Open Market Committee said inflation was “somewhat below” its goal.