Wind will blow strongly on the Fed

Stan Fisher the Fed’s vice president has decided to resign at mid-October for personal reasons. This will dramatically changed the internal equilibrium of the Fed’s board. Until now, three seats were vacant but there were 4 members appointed by Barack Obama. Their mandates are going at least beyond 2020 for all of them. The numerical advantage could lead to a statu quo and the possibility for Janet Yellen to remain president of the board.
With Fischer’s resignation the balance changes with now 4 seats that are unoccupied. On these 4, one has already been appointed by Donald Trump. Randal Quarles a private banker will replace Daniel Tarullo but he has yet to be confirmed by the Congress.
Who will be the next three? And who will be the next Fed’s president? Before Fischer’s resignation it could have been Yellen but we cannot expect this conclusion now.

4 types of risks
1 – If the Fed’s members appointments mimic what’s happening in the current Trump administration we can expect that many of these vacant seats will remain vacant. In many ministers, many jobs with high responsibility have not been filled yet. It would be problematic for the monetary policy management and the credibility of the US central bank.
2 – Will the next president be an economist as it is the rule? Jimmy Carter in 1978 named a non economist and it was a nightmare.
3 – There is not a lot of talented economists who claim for the job. It’s annoying for the quality of the board, the monetary policy management and the prospects for the US economy.
4 – With this new equilibrium and a Congress with a republican majority there is a risk on the independence of the Fed. Many reports from the republican side have asked for a Fed following a monetary policy rule (a Taylor rule type). Following such a rule would limit the capacity of judgement of the US central bank and its independence as it will have to follow the rule.

Fischer’s resignation can be a game changer on monetary policy at a moment where the US economic policy is just monetary policy.

A graph to illustrate the US structural problem

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This graph illustrates an article by David Leonhardt (NY Times) on the US income distribution.

It shows how the income distribution has changed between 1980 and 2014.
In 1980, there was a catch-up effect for low incomes. Their growth rate was higher than the average and higher than high incomes. For the lowest 20%, the 1980 income growth was higher than the average (2.5% inflation adjusted growth)
In 2014, every percentile has an income growth that is lower than percentiles higher on the distribution. There is no more catch-up but divergence.
For the highest 20%, the 2014 income growth was higher than the average (1.4% inflation adjusted growth).
The proposal made by Donald Trump and the Republicans to lower tax rates would accentuate the divergence of the income distribution. It would be negative for the economy.
« Most Americans would look at these charts and conclude that inequality is out of control. The president, on the other hand, seems to think that inequality isn’t big enough. »

On the US Income Distribution

A  national accounts framework  that can show the income distribution by decile is a priori  fascinating. Piketty, Saez and Zucman have done that for the US. It allows to look at income shares through time. They show that the first 5 déciles share in national income intersects this share of the top 1% in the 90’s. The first five déciles share went from circa 20% in the 70’s to a little more than 12% in 2014. The top 1% has had a profile that mirrored this trajectory from 11% to 20%. 

A comparison of the first five déciles share between the US and France shows that French people have had really a better situation. 

The summary of a detailed document is available here 

The Fed is confident

The Federal Reserve has increased its interest rate by 25bp. The fed fund rate will be in a corridor going from 0.75 to 1%. Previously and since last December Fed’s meeting the corridor was 0.5 to 0.75%.
The US central bank will continue to increase its rate and expects two other increases in 2017 to 1.375% (mid-corridor). Three hikes are expected for 2018 to 2.125% and for 2019 the rate will converge to 3% (which is also the Fed’s long term target). For 2017, there is no acceleration when the profile is compared to what was expected in December.

The Fed perceives the US economy as robust. Yellen said that clearly when she answered a question during the press conference. The US central bank said that its two objectives are almost attained. Growth is robust and the inflation rate is close to 2%. That’s a good reason for the central bank to increase its rate. It’s a new step for normalisation.
Growth and inflation forecasts are unchanged when compared to December. GDP growth is expected at 2.1 in 2017 and 2018 (it was 2% for 2018 in December). The inflation rate is at 1.9% and 2% as is the core inflation rate. These are the same numbers than in December.  Continue reading

The Fed is ready to hike its rate in December

The Federal Reserve continue to think that the long term value of the fed funds follows a downward adjustment trend. This reflects an almost pessimistic perception of the US economic trend even if no recession is expected.
In the short run the Fed expects to being able to increase its rate in December 2016 without creating damage on the economy. The US central bank wants to catch some degree of freedom in the way it manages its monetary strategy. But a hike in December doesn’t mean a strong upward trend for 2017.

The Fed’s message is almost pessimistic on the long run as it expects the level of its rate (the fed funds rate) will follow a downward adjustment. Last June this long term level was anticipated as being at 3%. In September it is expected at 2.9%.
The Federal Reserve thinks less and less that the economic cycle will converge to its pre-crisis features. It’s important as it reflects a kind of secular stagnation with low growth and limited inflation in the long-term. If we follow the Fed’s forecasts then we see that the nominal GDP growth is never expected to be above 4%  Before 2007 it was fluctuating between 4 and 6%. The Fed thinks that the US economy will not go back to this corridor and that’s the main reason for low interest rates. Continue reading