Investors just got more details on Federal Reserve (Fed) policymakers’ views of inflation.
Minutes of the Fed’s most recent meeting, which ended May 1, showed that “many participants” considered slowing consumer inflation as “transitory,” and agreed that the Fed’s current patient approach should help stoke economic growth and inflation. Policymakers’ optimistic view on inflation runs counter to a growing opinion in financial markets that slowing growth in core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) could warrant lower rates.
Markets think the grace period for a “transitory” excuse has passed, but data show it’s too soon to tell. Another measure of inflation, the Fed Bank of Dallas’s “trimmed mean” PCE measure, points to higher pricing pressures ahead. As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, the trimmed mean PCE, which has proven to be a less volatile version of core PCE, has hit 2% year-over-year growth for the past several months.
“It’s tough to make a case for lower rates with over 3% gross domestic product growth, healthy wage growth, and a labor market close to full employment,” said LPL Research Chief Investment Strategist John Lynch. “If consumer inflation picks up, the U.S. economy will be near full employment with healthy inflation across the board, fulfilling the Fed’s dual mandate.”
Of course, much has happened on the global front since the Fed’s last meeting. Trade tensions have flared up again, with the United States raising tariff rates on $200 billion of Chinese imports and threatening to increase rates on the remaining swath of goods. Logically, tariffs should be a catalyst for higher consumer inflation, as higher costs should boost price growth. However, the opposite has happened over the past few months, and there are several factors to consider when thinking about future inflation.
Overall, we don’t see a strong argument for a rate cut right now, and we side with the Fed in thinking consumer inflation could pick up as wage growth accelerates and growth stabilizes. At the very least, it’s becoming more obvious the Fed doesn’t have enough clarity to move policy in either direction.
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