Off The Wire
Fed's Bullard, explaining dissent, says U.S. manufacturing appears 'in recession'
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. manufacturing sector “already appears in recession” and overall economic growth is expected to slow “in the near horizon,” St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard said on Friday, explaining why he dissented at a recent Fed meeting and wanted a deeper, half percentage point rate cut.
The Fed reduced its target overnight policy rate by a quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday, to a level of between 1.75% and 2.0%, to offset slowing global growth and risks associated in part with President Donald Trump’s trade battles with China.
It was the second Fed rate reduction this year.
But Bullard wanted a bigger cut, and cited continued weak inflation and issues in the bond market along with the potential for an economic slowdown.
A larger rate reduction “would provide insurance against further declines in expected inflation and a slowing economy subject to elevated downside risks,” Bullard said in a written statement released on Friday morning.
“It is prudent risk management, in my view, to cut the policy rate aggressively now and then later increase it should the downside risks not materialize.”
The dissent this week was Bullard’s second of the year, and the reasons behind it suggest growing concern on his part about the state of the U.S. economy.
In June, when his colleagues voted to keep rates unchanged, Bullard argued that they should begin cutting them on the grounds that inflation remained below the Fed’s 2% target and that growth was expected to slow “for the remainder of the year.”
His argument for more aggressive action was coupled with an expansion of the risks he said he perceived — from data pointing to a contraction in manufacturing to bond market pricing that has in some cases pushed short term yields above long term ones.
If sustained, that sort of yield curve “inversion” has been a precursor to recessions in the past.
“Many estimates of recession probabilities have risen from low to moderate levels,” Bullard said.
“The yield curve is inverted, and our policy rate remains above government bond yields” in many other developed nations, a possible sign, in a world of global capital flows, that the U.S. is out of line with broader world financial conditions.
Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Andrew Heavens & Kim Coghill