New York Federal Reserve President John Williams doubled down on the central bank’s decision to pause monetary policy for now, saying there would have to be substantial change in the U.S. economy for the Fed to step in.
“Monetary policy is in a good place,” Williams said in an interview with CNBC’s Steve Liesman. “But as we’ve proven in the past, if economic conditions shift, change in a material way … obviously we’re ready to adjust our policy views accordingly.”
The Fed has been very busy over the last couple of years. In 2018, the central bank hiked its benchmark interest rate four times, with the fourth uptick coming amid a massive stock market sell-off that only worsened after the Fed’s move.
This year saw the central bank completely reverse course with three interest rate cuts that started in July. It was the first time the Fed had cut rates in over a decade. And Williams thinks the cuts are working.
“With the rate cuts that we did this year, we created a situation where monetary policy is supportive and accommodating growth,” Williams said. “That’s a good position given what’s going on in the economy.”
Williams may be hinting at uncertainty surrounding the U.S.-China trade war. The world’s two largest economies have agreed to a phase one trade truce, but there are still many unresolved issues, including China’s rampant theft of U.S. intellectual properties.
The latest meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee last week was in line with what Williams is saying as well. The Fed announced it would hold interest rates steady, and it signaled no movement on rates through 2020. There is a high bar for a rate cut, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said inflation would have to be persistently higher for the central bank to even think about hiking rates.
Former Fed Chief Alan Greenspan said Tuesday that he thinks the Fed will get its wish for higher inflation because the national deficit is ballooning out of control.
“Right now, there’s no real inflation at play,” Greenspan said. “But if we go further than we are currently, inflation is inevitably going to rise.”