By Bryan Rich
September 19, 2016, 2:00pm EST
We have two big central bank meetings this week–BOJ and the Fed. With that, as we head into the week, let’s look at a key chart.
This chart is from a St. Louis Fed blog post last year. The inflation data, however, is all up-to-date. The Fed says “the chart above shows eight series that receive a lot of attention in the context of policy.”
So according to this chart, last year, as the Fed was building into its first rate hike to move away from emergency level rates and policies, the inflation data was looking soft. The Fed was telegraphing, clearly, a September hike, though six of the eight inflation measures in the chart above were running south of their target of 2% in the middle of last year. The headline inflation number for September, their preferred date of a hike, was zero!
Of course, after markets went haywire following China’s currency devaluation in August of last year, the Fed balked and stood pat. When things calmed, in December, they made their move. And at the same meeting, they projected to hike FOUR times this year. So far it hasn’t happened. It’s been a one and done.
Moreover, as of March of this year, they took two of those projected hikes off the table, and guided lower on growth, lower on inflation and a lower rate trajectory into the future. I would argue removing two hikes from guidance was effectively easing.
But if we look at the chart above, where inflation stands now relative to the middle of last year, when they were all “bulled-up” on rates, the story doesn’t jive. By all of the inflation measures, the economy is clearly running hotter (a relative term). Five of the eight inflation measures are running ABOVE the Fed’s 2% target (the horizontal black line in the chart). Yet, aside from a few Fed hawks that have been out trying to build expectations for a rate move soon, on balance, the messaging from the Fed has been mixed at best, if not dovish.
The Bernanke-led Fed relied heavily on communication (i.e. massaging sentiment and perception) to orchestrate the recovery, but the Fed, under Yellen, has been a communications disaster.
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