Fed likely to announce taper in November, former Fed official says

(Reuters) – omThe U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to announce the tapering of its asset purchases in November and begin the process a month later, former Federal Reserve official Dennis Lockhart said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The Federal Reserve building is set against a blue sky in Washington, U.S., May 1, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Waiting until November will give policymakers more data on the labor market’s recovery and economic growth, Lockhart told the Reuters Global Markets Forum (GMF).

But Lockhart, president of the Atlanta Fed from 2007 to 2017, warned “a particularly bad next two months” could postpone this timeline.

The Fed’s September meeting will be the first since the Jackson Hole symposium where Chairman Jerome Powell only said tapering could be “this year.”

Fed policymakers will also release their summary of economic projections at the September meeting, which Lockhart said they may want to get “out of the way” before giving a taper schedule.

The economic projections “could present a picture not entirely consistent with the tapering decision in some respects,” he said.

Lockhart was “agnostic” on the route the central bank might take to unwind its $120 billion worth of monthly bond purchases — whether by following the post-Great Recession playbook and first cutting back Treasury purchases, or leading with mortgage-backed securities to calm a red-hot housing market.

Lockhart believes financial markets should absorb tapering without much volatility, but that the Fed should worry about persistent market unrest if it spills into the real economy.

Lockhart, currently Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, sees inflation as transitory “for now”.

These price pressures could last through 2022, making it vital to manage inflation expectations, he said.

Despite some calls for the Fed to focus more on green policies, Lockhart believes the central bank’s current mandate should not be changed.

Two policymakers told GMF the onus of promoting green investments reut.rs/3kvgWhj should lie with governments and not central banks reut.rs/3DARRdA.

Lockhart also noted that the Fed was serious in addressing inequality, particularly employment among women and minorities.

“The “inclusion” word … signals an important change in the (Fed’s) mentality.”

(This interview was conducted in the Reuters Global Markets Forum, a chat room hosted on the Refinitiv Messenger platform. Sign up here to join GMF: refini.tv/33uoFoQ)

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