Fed Presidents and Governors Still Talking Up Rate Hike for 2016

Jon C. Ogg

The week of October 14 was a busy one for economic reports. It was also a busy week for the talking heads inside the Federal Reserve. Note that the most recent speeches this past week, even after having only three of 10 votes in September for a hike, still show a bias for the Fed to raise rates.

With the November Federal Open Market Committee meeting scheduled just days ahead of the election, the odds makers (the federal funds futures) are now focusing on a December rate hikes — but not quite 100% of a chance, at least ahead of Friday’s Janet Yellen speech.

Fed Chair Yellen gave the luncheon keynote address at the Boston Fed’s 60th Economic Conference. This was titled “The Elusive Recovery,” which may not sound hawkish at all. Still, she did not directly address interest rate hikes in her speech. But Yellen did say that the Federal Reserve may need to run a “high-pressure economy” to reverse damage from the 2008 to 2009 crisis that depressed output. In short, Yellen fears that our economic potential is slipping, and it may require aggressive steps to rebuild economic growth.

Eric Rosengren, president of the Boston Federal Reserve, said on Friday that the odds of a rate hike were very high in December. His view is that unemployment has fallen faster than expected and he is not worried about inflationary dangers.

Also on Friday, Loretta Mester, president of the Cleveland Fed, participated in a round table discussion with the Common Good Ohio (in Cleveland), which is affiliated with the Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up Campaign. Mester has been on the record in recent weeks as saying that the jobs market and inflation are enough to justify a rate hike.

Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Patrick Harker said on Thursday that the uncertainty stemming from the U.S. presidential election might be an argument for delaying a rate increase, at least until after the November ballot. Hint: December.

Neel Kashkari, president of the Minneapolis Fed, has tried to remain on the sidelines for vocalizing rate hike talk outside of what Yellen says. Still, on Thursday he talked about more sluggish growth and maintained that the Fed and other agencies need a remedy for the “too big to fail” banks.

William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve of New York, sounded a tad more dovish. His take is that the Fed can be gentle with gradual rate hikes. He also pointed out that the Fed is not political when making interest rate decisions.

Esther George, head of the Kansas City Fed, did not address the economy nor rate hike views when speaking on Wednesday. Still, she did talk about the need for better bank cybersecurity and security of payments. George is considered one of the more hawkish Fed presidents.

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans was deemed as being noncommittal on Monday when he spoke. Still, he was signaling a December hike: “December could be an appropriate time to do it, but I don’t see any urgency either.” That was in a CNBC interview.

Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer spoke on October 9 and spoke about gross domestic product somehow recovering to 2.75% for the second half of 2016, a higher view than average. Fischer has been more hawkish of late and said that September’s decision was a close call. He said that he expects inflation to rise and that gradual rate hikes would be sufficient to get to Fed back to a neutral stance.