Federal Reserve officials say they are likely to begin raising interest rates this year, and former Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher thinks that's a good idea.
"The upcoming Fed meetings present a timely opportunity to start slowing down the engines, however slightly, so as to maintain the confidence of markets, businesses and consumers alike," he writes in the Financial Times
The Fed's favored inflation gauge shows price increases averaged only 1.65 percent annually over the past 10 years. But a better measure puts it at 1.83 percent, Fisher says. The Fed's inflation target is 2 percent.
"There is another reason not to be too concerned about the inflation rate falling below its intermediate-term target," Fisher says. "History tells us that wage growth initially picks up slowly when unemployment starts to fall but, as it approaches more fulsome levels, wage rises accelerate."
The unemployment rate hit a seven-year low of 5.1 percent in August. Wages gained 2.2 percent in the last 12 months.
The Fed has kept short-term interest rates at a record low near zero since December 2008. "Moving toward liftoff from the zero bound" would help the economy, Fisher says.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, now a Harvard professor, disagrees with Fisher, arguing that the central bank
should hold off from raising rates at its meeting next week. He offers several reasons why.
- "First, markets have already done the work of tightening," he writes in The Washington Post, referring to the stock market's drop and the bond market's volatility. "Financial conditions, as measured by Goldman Sachs or the Chicago Fed index, have tightened in the last two weeks by the impact equivalent of more than a 0.25-percentage-point increase in interest rates," Summers says.
- "Second, the data flow suggests a slowing in the U.S. and global economies and reduced inflationary pressures." The Atlanta Fed's forecasting model puts third-quarter U.S. growth at only 1.5 percent. And consumer prices have risen just 0.2 percent in the 12 months through July.
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