While some Federal Reserve officials are expressing reluctance to raise interest rates next month amid the stock market's virulent volatility, Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank, says the Fed should act now.
The central bank has kept short-term rates near a record low of zero over the past six and a half years.
"It's about time the Federal Reserve normalize interest rates," he writes on CNBC.com
. "The economy is much stronger than it was in December 2008, the time when the Fed's current target for rates was set." GDP grew 3.7 percent in the second quarter.
Central banks across the world have mounted massive easing programs since the 2008 financial crisis to buoy their economies.
But, "heavy-handed government involvement in economies and markets carries risks," Ablin says. One market that is seeing excessive speculation is art, he says. Six-month sales at auction house Christie just hit a record $4.5 billion.
"The longer central banks stay involved, the more we will see this type of speculation," Ablin maintains.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers sees things differently.
"A reasonable assessment of current conditions suggests that raising rates in the near future would be a serious error that would threaten all three of the Fed’s major objectives: price stability, full employment and financial stability," the Harvard professor writes in The Washington Post
Unemployment held at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent in July. And the Fed's favored inflation gauge, rose just 0.3 percent in the 12 months through June, well below the central bank's 2 percent target.
Rate hikes would hurt employment by encouraging companies to hold on to cash rather than investing in new employees, Summers says. And with financial markets in free fall, a rate rise is no longer necessary to ensure financial stability.
"At this moment of considerable fragility, the risk is that a rate increase will tip some part of the financial system into crisis with unpredictable and dangerous consequences," he states.
It appears more likely that the economy faces secular stagnation or a savings glut rather than temporary headwinds, Summers says.
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