Fed's Clarida says inflation expectations in line with mandate

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. inflation expectations are currently in line with the central bank’s 2% goal, Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida said on Thursday, an indication he does not see a pressing need for new rate cuts to push inflation back up.

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Vice Chair Richard Clarida talks on the phone during the three-day "Challenges for Monetary Policy" conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, U.S., August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Crosby/File Photo

“I myself do judge that U.S. inflation expectations do reside in a range that I consider consistent with our price stability mandate,” Clarida said at a conference held at the San Francisco Fed that focused on the trade-offs in a so-called “hot economy.”

The Fed last week cut interest rates to a range of 1.75% to 2.00%. They also lowered borrowing costs at their prior meeting at the end of July, moves Fed Chair Jerome Powell characterized as “insurance” against the risks to the U.S. economy posed by slowing global growth, U.S. trade tensions and moderate inflation.

But Powell has also said the Fed would decide on the future path of interest rates on a meeting-by-meeting basis and he, Clarida and several other policymakers have said the economy, powered by robust consumer spending, is in a good place.

The San Francisco Fed conference is part of a series of Fed events Clarida is spearheading that are meant to feed into a review of the central bank’s policy framework, including a look at whether the Fed should change how it targets inflation so that it can more powerfully affect it.

The central bank expects to release its framework findings sometime in the first half of 2020.

On Thursday, Clarida in his opening remarks said the U.S. labor market is robust and the 3.7% unemployment rate is in the range of “plausible estimates” of full employment.

Yet, he said, “there is no evidence that rising wages are putting upward pressure on price inflation,” noting that structural changes in the economy have weakened the connection between loose monetary policy and the risk of high inflation.

It was a point that researcher after researcher on following panels drove home to Clarida, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly and other economists, community leaders and policymakers in the room.

Some emphasized the benefits of low interest rates in reducing inequality and giving more people access to jobs.

Others argued that the “hot” economy benefits only a subset of Americans while others need to work two or more jobs just to meet rising housing costs, one of the side effects of a strong labor market.

“Is it easier to work in a hot economy, or does that pull against what you are trying to achieve?” San Francisco Fed’s Daly asked a panel of community leaders and activists. “Are the tradeoffs so large, you would prefer us to slow down?”

There was no unanimous answer to that question, with some panelists saying relatively good conditions made it harder to galvanize support for those struggling with unemployment and underemployment, while others said private demand for workers is driving training investment.

While that particular exchange left no immediate read on how the Fed saw current policy settings, Daly ended the conference with no hint that she intends to slow the hot economy. “The benefits are real,” she said.

Reporting by Ann Saphir; Writing by Lindsay Dunsmuir; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Lisa Shumaker and Sam Holmes