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Key Point of Yellen Speech

Global developments have increased the risks associated with that outlook. In light of these considerations, the Committee decided to leave the stance of policy unchanged in both January and March.

Although the baseline outlook has changed little on balance since December, global developments pose ongoing risks. These risks appear to have contributed to the financial market volatility witnessed both last summer and in recent months.

“The inflation outlook has also become somewhat more uncertain since the turn of the year, in part for reasons related to risks to the outlook for economic growth. To the extent that recent financial market turbulence signals an increased chance of a further slowing of growth abroad, oil prices could resume falling, and the dollar could start rising again. And if foreign developments were to adversely affect the U.S. economy by more than I expect, then the pace of labor market improvement would probably be slower, which would also tend to restrain growth in both wages and prices. But even if such developments were to occur, they would, in my view, only delay the return of inflation to 2 percent, provided that inflation expectations remain anchored.”

“Despite the declines in some indicators of expected inflation, we also need to consider the opposite risk that we are underestimating the speed at which inflation will return to our 2 percent objective. Economic growth here and abroad could turn out to be stronger than expected, and, as the past few weeks have demonstrated, oil prices can rise as well as fall. More generally, economists’ understanding of inflation is far from perfect, and it would not be all that surprising if inflation was to rise more quickly than expected over the next several years. For these reasons, we must continue to monitor incoming wage and price data carefully.”

Given the risks to the outlook, I consider it appropriate for the Committee to proceed cautiously in adjusting policy. This caution is especially warranted because, with the federal funds rate so low, the FOMC’s ability to use conventional monetary policy to respond to economic disturbances is asymmetric. If economic conditions were to strengthen considerably more than currently expected, the FOMC could readily raise its target range for the federal funds rate to stabilize the economy. By contrast, if the expansion was to falter or if inflation was to remain stubbornly low, the FOMC would be able to provide only a modest degree of additional stimulus by cutting the federal funds rate back to near zero.”

“One must be careful, however, not to overstate the asymmetries affecting monetary policy at the moment. Even if the federal funds rate were to return to near zero, the FOMC would still have considerable scope to provide additional accommodation. In particular, we could use the approaches that we and other central banks successfully employed in the wake of the financial crisis to put additional downward pressure on long-term interest rates and so support the economy–specifically, forward guidance about the future path of the federal funds rate and increases in the size or duration of our holdings of long-term securities.”

“As our March decision and the latest revisions to the Summary of Economic Projections demonstrate, the Committee has not embarked on a preset course of tightening. Rather, our actions are data dependent, and the FOMC will adjust policy as needed to achieve its dual objectives.”

Financial market participants appear to recognize the FOMC’s data-dependent approach because incoming data surprises typically induce changes in market expectations about the likely future path of policy, resulting in movements in bond yields that act to buffer the economy from shocks.”

 

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