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REPEAT:MNI ANALYSIS:Fed's Brainard-Gradual Hikes 'Appropriate'

Repeats Story Initially Transmitted at 18:58 GMT May 31/14:58 EST May 31
--Policy Path Will Move To Neutral, After Some Time Likely To Move Past Neutral
--Yield Curve Inversion Could Happen, Likely A 'Less Adverse Signal'
--Mild, Temporary Overshoot In Inflation Could Push Underlying Inflation Up
--Forward-Guidance Language On Rates Lower Than Longer-Run "Stale" 
By Sara Haire
     WASHINGTON (MNI) - Gradual rate hikes remain "appropriate," Federal Reserve
Governor Lael Brainard repeated in her remarks delivered to the Forecasters Club
of New York on Thursday, one of the last public appearances by a Federal Reserve
official before the blackout period begins ahead of the June meeting.
     Despite the yield curve's potential for inverting, Brainard indicated that
the policy path should continue on its gradual path of removing accommodation. 
     "If the 10-year term premium were to stay very low, that path would likely
imply a yield curve inversion," Brainard said. She continued on to explain that
if the term premium does remain low, there would likely be a "less adverse
signal from any given yield curve spread."
     "With the term premium today very low by historical standards, this may
temper somewhat the conclusions that we can draw from a pattern that we have
seen historically in periods with a higher term premium," Brainard said. 
     The flattening of the yield curve, is "one among several important
indicators" Brainard looks at. Broader context of the financial conditions is
needed when interpreting the movements in the yield curve, she said.
     In contrast, St. Louis Fed Chief James Bullard reiterated in Tokyo, May 29
that the yield curve could invert this year and an inverted yield curve "helps
predict US recessions."
     However, somewhat in line with Brainard's comments Thursday, soon to be New
York Fed Chief John Williams said in a talk in Madrid on April 17 that while an
inverted yield curve was a "powerful signal of recessions," it does not appear
to be that way currently. 
     Brainard sees continued gradual increases in the federal funds rate as
"warranted", especially given that inflation has not yet been sustained at the
Fed's 2% target.
     Given her support of this gradual approach and her positive outlook, she
noted that this would suggest a policy path that will move gradually to neutral,
and "after some time, modestly beyond neutral."
     She also explained that the longer-run neutral rate is likely to remain low
by historical standards.
     "[T]he fiscal stimulus package is likely to provide a tailwind to growth"
in 2018, Brainard said. Her outlook for 2018 is positive given the fiscal
stimulus and the "still-accommodative financial conditions."
     Governor Brainard expects that these current tailwinds will boost the
neutral rate in the medium term, but does not expect the long-run neutral rate
to see much of an impact.
     Brainard briefly mentioned that recent trade talks have brought
uncertainty, as "escalation in measures and countermeasures" could be disruptive
for the US but also globally.
     Reaffirming the fears of countermeasures, Canada announced earlier today
retaliatory taxes on US steel and aluminum.
     Additionally, she noted the recent political developments in Italy have
reintroduced some risk, while "financial conditions in the euro area have
worsened somewhat in response." Brainard noted that it is important to keep an
eye on these developments.
     As the unemployment rate has been holding at levels that are lower than
estimates of the natural rate of unemployment, inflation should be moving
upwards. However, inflation has continued to be subdued, which Brainard sees as
a risk that underlying inflation "has softened."
     An important goal for the FOMC is re-anchoring underlying inflation at the
2% objective and running a "mild, temporary overshoot" could be helpful in
pushing underlying inflation back to target, Brainard explained.
     This comes on the heels of the BEA reporting earlier Thursday that the core
PCE year-over-year rate, the Fed's preferred measure of inflation held steady at
1.8% in April following a downward revision to the March pace from the 1.9% gain
originally reported.
     The notion of the federal funds rate remaining below levels expected to
last in the longer run is considered to be "stale" by Governor Brainard. The SEP
shows the median for the fed funds rate in 2020 is at 3.4%, considerably higher
than the longer-run projection of 2.9%, causing the forward-guidance language to
"no longer serve its original purpose."
--MNI Washington Bureau; +1 212-800-8517; email:

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