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Monday, September 12, 2016

Read this now: Fed governor Lael Brainard’s speech on the “new normal”/asymmetric risk [feedly]

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Read this now: Fed governor Lael Brainard's speech on the "new normal"/asymmetric risk
// Jared Bernstein | On the Economy

Don't have time to do justice to this speech given today by Fed governor Lael Brainard, but it's just a beautiful merging of common sense and very smart, contemporary macro and monetary policy.

I'm try to give more commentary later, but for now, I'll pull some key quotes (my bold in every case):

With the Phillips curve appearing to be a less reliable guidepost than it has been in the past, the anchoring role of inflation expectations remains critically important. On expected similar to realized inflation, recent developments suggest some reasons to be concerned more about undershooting than overshooting.

…we cannot rule out that the sustained period of undershooting the inflation target along with global disinflationary pressures are weighing on inflation expectations.

The apparent flatness of the Phillips curve together with evidence that inflation expectations may have softened on the downside and the persistent undershooting of inflation relative to our target should be important considerations in our policy deliberations. In particular, to the extent that the effect on inflation of further gradual tightening in labor market conditions is likely to be moderate and gradual, the case to tighten policy preemptively is less compelling.

This uncertainty about the true state of the economy suggests we should be open to the possibility of material further progress in the labor market. 

We cannot rule out that estimates of the natural unemployment rate may move even lower.

Of particular significance, the prime-age labor force participation rate, despite improvement this year, remains about 1-1/2 percentage points below its pre-crisis level, suggesting room for further gains.

…in the presence of uncertainty and the absence of accelerating inflationary pressures, it would be unwise for policy to foreclose on the possibility of making further gains in the labor market.

The experiences of these economies [Europe, Japan; JB] highlight the risk of becoming trapped in a low-growth, low-inflation, low-inflation-expectations environment and suggest that policy should be oriented toward minimizing the risk of the U.S. economy slipping into such a situation.

The fact that many advanced economies are suffering from deficient demand and have policy rates at or near the zero bound and that the U.S. dollar is a favored safe-haven asset may imply that adverse foreign demand shocks have a particularly strong effect on the value of the dollar, effectively transmitting the weakness to the U.S. economy.

From a risk-management perspective, therefore, the asymmetry in the conventional policy toolkit would lead me to expect policy to be tilted somewhat in favor of guarding against downside risks relative to preemptively raising rates to guard against upside risks.

In today's new normal, the costs to the economy of greater-than-expected strength in demand are likely to be lower than the costs of significant unexpected weakness.

For the time being, the most effective way to address these concerns is to ensure that our policy actions align with our commitment to achieving the existing inflation target, which the Committee has recently clarified is symmetric around 2 percent--and not a ceiling-along with maximum employment.

I really love the clarity, foresight, global perspective and balanced risk assessment.

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