Fed Tapering in Six Weeks? Don’t Bet on It
If the Federal Reserve plans to start tapering the pace of its $85 billion in monthly asset purchases, as many analysts expect it to in September, there was no hint of it in the statement released at the end of today's meeting.
In fact, the biggest change in the statement from June to July suggests just the opposite. "Inflation persistently below its 2 percent objective could pose risks to economic performance," the Fed said before qualifying its concern. The policy committee "anticipates that inflation will move back" toward its target from the current 1 percent year-over-year rate.
Etymologists (wordsmiths, not insect lovers) will point to the slight downgrading of the assessment of the economic expansion from "moderate" to "modest." (Given the weight its audience puts on every adjectival modifier, you have to figure the Fed policy makers think long and hard about it, too.) Whether today's historical GDP revisions and slight improvement in growth during the last three years had any meaningful bearing on the discussion is unclear.
The Fed's concern about disinflation in a growing economy that it expects to see strengthen is significant. Yes, inflation is still a monetary phenomenon, despite claims you may read to the contrary. If a slower rate of inflation is a real issue for Fed officials, not a backdoor attempt to talk long-term interest rates back down, I'd say it's too soon to expect tapering six weeks from now. So don't put it in the calendar just yet.
(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow her on Twitter.)