January 20, 2021

Fed Officials Debated Rate Liftoff in 2015, Offering Lessons for Today

But even back then, not everyone on the Fed’s rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee was comfortable with the plan. When the decision to lift interest rates came in December, Governor Lael Brainard seemed to question it — arguing that the labor market still had room to expand and that inflation was coming in short of the committee’s 2 percent goal. She ultimately voted for the decision alongside Ms. Yellen and her fellow policymakers.

“The recent price data give little hint that this undershooting of our target will end any time soon,” Ms. Brainard said of inflation at the time, according to the transcript. That, paired with risks from a slowdown overseas, made her place “somewhat greater weight on the possible regret associated with tightening too early than on the possible regret associated with waiting a little longer.”

In explaining that she would vote for the increase anyway, Ms. Brainard said that she placed “a very high premium on ensuring the credibility of monetary policy” and appreciated the thoughtful process Ms. Yellen and the staff had undergone in planning to change the policy. She suggested in 2019 that moving rates up in 2015 was a mistake, and that “a better alternative would have been to delay liftoff until we had achieved our targets.”

Stanley Fischer, the vice chairman at the time, laid out a concise explanation of why the committee was moving.

“Why move now?” he said. “First, as the chair has emphasized, our actions become effective with a lag. Second, there are some signs of accumulating financial stability problems. And, third, the signal we will be sending will reinforce the fact that our economic situation is continuing to normalize.”

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/08/business/economy/fed-officials-debated-rate-liftoff-in-2015-offering-lessons-for-today.html

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