Must-read: Martin Sandbu: “Four Takes on the Fed Fumble”

Must-Read: That the Fed would be facing significant chances of recession and would be moving in the opposite policy direction than its peers over the winter was a serious risk of beginning a tightening cycle in December, and a risk that has now risen from a possibility to a probability.

What was the countervailing serious risk that starting the tightening cycle in December took off the table? I really do not see it…

Graph 5 Year 5 Year Forward Inflation Expectation Rate FRED St Louis Fed

Martin Sandbu: Four Takes on the Fed Fumble: “Remember September? Markets seemingly couldn’t wait for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates…

…Now, however, markets seemingly can’t wait for the Fed to definitively snip the fledgling tightening cycle in the bud. And a growing chatter wonders whether the Fed made a mistake…. Market pricing now implies nearly a two-thirds probability that Fed policymakers will get past next September without a single further rate rise. The change in market sentiment is easy enough to understand… financial turmoil in China… slide in global stock markets… sharp US growth slowdown…. There are (at least) four different ways one may assess the Fed’s actions. First, the plain ‘the Fed goofed up’ view… Paul Krugman, Brad DeLong and Larry Summers. Free Lunch readers will know that this column shares their view on this issue… Jed Graham….

A second, perhaps more interesting, take is that in hindsight the Fed shouldn’t have raised rates, but that it couldn’t have known this at the time…. A third take… the mistake was to create expectations that caused financial conditions to tighten long before December…. A fourth view… the Fed was right to hike but wrong in thinking it would then proceed to lift rates through this year…. But… the arguments for a rise were… for the beginning of a sustained if gradual process. If that is now derailed, it removes much of the rationale for the first increase.

It also leaves open the question of what to do next…. Should the Fed reverse course? That is the view of Narayana Kocherlakota…


Brad DeLong


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