Federal Reserve

Fed on track to raise US rates next months as officials shrug off Trump’s election win

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 3:49am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 3:49am

Federal Reserve policy makers never discuss politics in their meetings, according to a senior official, while his colleague said the election of Donald Trump as US president shouldn’t delay an interest-rate increase next month.

“I am not seeing enough volatility here to change my basic projection for the economy,” said Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard on Thursday. “I think we are basically on track, the same way we were before the election. Our view has called for a single rate increase and I think December would be a reasonable time to implement that increase.”

Republican Trump’s shock victory on November 8 initially sent stock markets plunging, though equity prices have recovered and bond yields risen in anticipation of the tax cuts and infrastructure investment he promised voters.

Investors currently see an 84 per cent probability of a quarter percentage point hike at their December 13-14 meeting, according to pricing in federal funds futures.

Trump criticised the Fed during his campaign. Questions remain, however, over his attitude toward Fed independence and Chair Janet Yellen, whom he accused of holding rates low to aid Democratic President Barack Obama. Fed officials stressed the institution is apolitical.

“It can be, to an outsider, very hard to understand all the things we get into, because we’re incredibly nerdy, incredibly geeky,” said San Francisco Fed chief John Williams as he described meetings of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee in Washington.

The key thing is “the 17 policy makers, the hundreds of economists who’re involved in this, nowhere is there a discussion of politics,” he said. “Even though we’re right in the centre of Washington, DC and all that entails, we just sit there in those rooms -- in that one room, actually -- and just discuss the economy and how we can best achieve the goals that Congress gave us.”

Trump has not commented on his views toward the Fed or Yellen since his victory. He cannot fire the chair, whose four-year term expires in February 2018, but has previously said he would not reappoint her to lead the central bank. Nor has there been any indication of what, if any, Fed reform he would favour, now that his party controls both chambers of Congress.

Bullard said he didn’t expect the political upheaval in Washington to have any influence on the monetary policy debate and that scrutiny by lawmakers was welcome.

“It has been re-examined many, many times and Congress keeps coming out more or less to the same position, which is that this is a pretty good structure for this country because it decentralises some of the decision making across the country and creates an institution that is at arm’s length from the political process,” he said.