Much attention will be paid to the Jan. 24-25 Federal Open Market Committee meeting, as, for the first time, members will express their predictions regarding the future federal funds rate target.
While it is unexpected that any changes will be made to ease monetary policy, the projections for the federal funds rate, included in the quarterly Summary of Economic Projections, could provide surprises, especially as the FOMC has already stated and reiterated that rates will remain low through the middle of next year.
Another variable is the roster of voters changes, with Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Richard Fisher, Philadelphia Fed president Charles Plosser, Chicago’s Charles Evans and Minneapolis’s Narayana Kocherlakota no longer casting ballots. They are replaced by Cleveland’s Sandra Pianalto, Richmond’s Jeffrey Lacker, Atlanta’s Dennis Lockhart, and San Francisco’s John Williams.
In recent statements, Lacker said he does not believe there is a compelling case for more monetary stimulus.
Pianalto was not as clear, stating: “While it is true that the federal funds rate has been near zero for some time, some economic policy models indicate that monetary policy should be even more accommodative than it is today. And this is true even after accounting for the large-scale asset programs the FOMC has initiated to compensate for the fact that the federal funds rate cannot go below zero.”
She noted that she backed recent FOMC policy decisions “and there is evidence that they have been effective.” But she said she would weigh any future actions.
Lockhart also left some wiggle-room, saying he’s “skeptical” that further accommodation would help the economy but is “open minded on the subject.”
Williams said he rues the “notably weak” recovery and the “shockingly high” unemployment rate. While he called for “tax and spending policies that work together with Federal Reserve programs to stimulate the economy,” he added: “Lower interest rates alone can’t fix all the economy’s problems. But they do help.”