Factbox: Fed staff forecasts from FOMC minutes

Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:13pm EDT

Aug 20 (Reuters) - - JULY 29-30 FOMC: Minutes released on Aug. 20:

"The data received since the staff prepared its forecast for the June FOMC meeting suggested that real GDP growth was even weaker in the first half of the year than had been anticipated. However, the staff left its forecast for real GDP growth in the second half of the year essentially unrevised because other indicators of economic activity appeared comparatively strong in relation to real GDP during the first half of the year. In particular, payroll employment continued to advance at a solid pace, the unemployment rate declined further, industrial production posted steady gains, and readings from business surveys were strong. The staff’s medium-term forecast for real GDP growth was also little revised. The staff continued to project that real GDP would expand at a faster pace in the second half of this year and over the next two years than in 2013. This forecast was predicated on a further anticipated waning of the restraint on spending growth from changes in fiscal policy, continued improvement in credit availability, increases in consumer and business confidence, and a pickup in foreign economic growth. In response to a further downward surprise in the unemployment rate, the staff again lowered its forecast for the unemployment rate over the projection period. To reconcile the downward revision to real GDP growth for the first half of year with an unemployment rate that was now closer to the staff’s estimate of its longer-run natural rate, the staff lowered its assumed pace of potential output growth this year by more than it marked down GDP growth. As a result, resource slack in this projection was anticipated to be somewhat narrower this year than in the previous forecast and to be taken up slowly over the projection period.

"The staff’s near-term forecast for inflation was revised up a little, as recent data showed somewhat faster-than-anticipated increases that were judged to be only partly transitory. With a little less resource slack in this projection, the medium-term forecast for inflation was also revised up slightly. Nonetheless, as in the June projection, inflation was projected to step down in the second half of this year and to remain below the Committee’s longer-run objective of 2 percent over the next few years. With longer-run inflation expectations assumed to remain stable, changes in commodity and import prices expected to be subdued, and slack in labor and product markets anticipated to diminish only slowly, inflation was forecast to rise gradually and to reach the Committee’s objective in the longer run.

"The staff continued to view uncertainty around its projections for real GDP growth, inflation, and the unemployment rate as roughly in line with the average of the past 20 years. Although the risks to GDP growth were still seen as tilted a little to the downside, as neither monetary policy nor fiscal policy was viewed as well positioned to help the economy withstand adverse shocks, these risks were considered to be more nearly balanced than in the previous projection. The staff continued to view the risks around its outlook for the unemployment rate and for inflation as roughly balanced."

JUNE 17-18 FOMC: Minutes released on July 9:

"In the economic forecast prepared by the staff for the June FOMC meeting, real GDP growth in the first half of this year as a whole was lower, on net, than in the projection for the April meeting. In particular, the available readings on exports, inventory investment, outlays for health-care services, and construction pointed to much weaker real GDP in the first quarter than the staff had expected. However, the staff still anticipated that real GDP growth would rebound briskly in the second quarter, consistent with recent indicators for consumer spending and business investment, along with the expectation that exports and inventory investment would return to more normal levels and that economic activity that had been restrained by the severe winter weather would bounce back. Primarily because of the combination of recent downward surprises in the unemployment rate and weaker-thanexpected real GDP, the staff slightly lowered its assumed pace of potential output growth this year and next and slightly decreased its assumption for the natural rate of unemployment over this same period. As a result, the staff’s medium-term forecast for real GDP growth was revised down a little on balance. Nevertheless, the staff continued to project that real GDP would expand at a faster pace in the second half of this year and over the next two years than it did last year and that it would rise more quickly than potential output. The faster pace of real GDP growth was expected to be supported by diminishing drag on spending from changes in fiscal policy, increases in consumer and business confidence, further improvements in credit availability, and a pickup in the rate of foreign economic growth. The expansion in economic activity was anticipated to slowly reduce resource slack over the projection period, and the unemployment rate was expected to decline gradually to the staff’s estimate of its longer-run natural rate in the medium term. In the longer-run outlook, the staff slightly lowered its assumptions for real GDP growth and the level of equilibrium real interest rates.

"The staff’s forecast for inflation in the near term was revised up a little as recent data showed somewhat faster increases in consumer prices than anticipated. However, the medium-term projection for inflation was revised down slightly, reflecting a reassessment by the staff of the underlying trend in inflation. The staff continued to forecast that inflation would remain below the Committee’s longer-run objective of 2 percent over the next few years. With longer-run inflation expectations assumed to remain stable, changes in commodity and import prices expected to be subdued, and slack in labor and product markets anticipated to diminish slowly, inflation was projected to rise gradually toward the Committee’s objective. The staff continued to project that inflation would reach the Committee’s objective in the longer run.

"The staff’s economic projections for the June meeting were somewhat different from the forecasts presented at the March meeting, when the FOMC last prepared a Summary of Economic Projections (SEP). The staff’s June projections for the unemployment rate, real GDP growth, and inflation over the next few years were all a little lower, on balance, than those in its March forecast. The staff viewed the extent of uncertainty around its June projections for real GDP growth and the unemployment rate as roughly in line with the average over the past 20 years. Nonetheless, the risks to the forecast for real GDP growth were viewed as tilted a little to the downside, as neither monetary policy nor fiscal policy was seen as being well positioned to help the economy withstand adverse shocks. At the same time, the staff viewed the risks around its outlook for the unemployment rate and for inflation as roughly balanced."

APRIL 29-30 FOMC: Minutes released on May 21:

"In the economic forecast prepared by the staff for the April FOMC meeting, real GDP growth in the first half of this year was somewhat slower than in the projection for the March meeting. The available readings on net exports and, to a lesser extent, residential investment pointed to less spending growth in the first quarter than the staff previously expected. However, the staff’s assessment was that the unanticipated weakness in economic activity in the first quarter would be largely transitory and implied little revision to its projection for second-quarter output growth. In addition, the medium-term forecast for real GDP growth was essentially unrevised. The staff continued to project that real GDP would expand at a faster pace over the next few years than it did last year, and that it would rise more quickly than the growth rate of potential output. The faster pace of real GDP growth was expected to be supported by an easing in the restraint from changes in fiscal policy, increases in consumer and business confidence, further improvements in credit availability and financial conditions, and a pickup in the rate of foreign economic growth. The expansion in economic activity was anticipated to slowly reduce resource slack over the projection period, and the unemployment rate was expected to decline gradually to the staff’s estimate of its longer-run natural rate.

"The staff’s forecast for inflation was basically unchanged from the projection prepared for the previous FOMC meeting. The staff continued to forecast that inflation would remain below the Committee’s longerrun objective of 2 percent over the next few years. With longer-run inflation expectations assumed to remain stable, changes in commodity and import prices expected to be subdued, and slack in labor and product markets anticipated to diminish slowly, inflation was projected to rise gradually toward the Committee’s objective."

"The staff viewed the extent of uncertainty around its April projections for real GDP growth, inflation, and the unemployment rate as roughly in line with the average over the past 20 years. Nonetheless, the risks to the forecast for real GDP growth were viewed as tilted a little to the downside, especially because the economy was not well positioned to withstand adverse shocks while the target for the federal funds rate was at its effective lower bound. At the same time, the staff viewed the risks around its outlook for the unemployment rate and for inflation as roughly balanced."

MARCH 18-19 FOMC: Minutes released on April 9:

In the economic forecast prepared by the staff for the March FOMC meeting, real GDP growth in the first half of this year was somewhat lower than in the projection for the January meeting. The available readings on consumer spending, residential construction, and business investment pointed to less spending growth in the first quarter than the staff had previously expected. The staff’s assessment was that the unusually severe winter weather could account for some, but not all, of the recent unanticipated weakness in economic activity, and the staff lowered its projection for near-term output growth. Largely because of the combination of recent downward surprises in the unemployment rate and weaker-than-expected real GDP growth, the staff lowered slightly the assumed pace of potential output growth in recent years and over the projection period. As a result, the staff’s medium-term forecast for real GDP growth also was revised down slightly. Nevertheless, the staff continued to project that real GDP would expand at a faster pace over the next few years than it did last year, and that real GDP growth would exceed the growth rate of potential output. The faster pace of real GDP growth was expected to be supported by an easing in the restraint from changes in fiscal policy, increases in consumer and business confidence, further improvements in credit availability and financial conditions, and a pickup in the rate of foreign economic growth. The expansion in economic activity was anticipated to lead to a slow reduction in resource slack over the projection period, and the unemployment rate was expected to decline gradually to the staff’s estimate of its longer-run natural rate.

"The staff’s forecast for inflation was basically unchanged from the projection prepared for the previous FOMC meeting. The staff continued to forecast that inflation would stay below the Committee’s longer-run objective of 2 percent over the next few years. Inflation was projected to rise gradually toward the Committee’s objective, as longer-run inflation expectations were assumed to remain stable, changes in commodity and import prices were expected to be subdued, and slack in labor and product markets was anticipated to diminish slowly.

"The staff’s economic projections for the March meeting were quite similar to its forecasts presented at the December meeting when the FOMC last prepared a Summary of Economic Projections (SEP). The staff’s March projections for both real GDP growth and the unemployment rate over the next few years were just slightly lower than in its December forecasts, while the inflation projection was essentially unchanged.

"The staff viewed the extent of uncertainty around its March projections for real GDP growth and the unemployment rate as roughly in line with the average of the past 20 years. Nonetheless, the risks to the forecast for real GDP growth were viewed as tilted a little to the downside, especially because the economy was not well positioned to withstand adverse shocks while the target for the federal funds rate was at its effective lower bound. At the same time, the staff viewed the risks around its outlook for the unemployment rate and for inflation as roughly balanced."

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