It’s the minimalist Federal Reserve.
With a tad of old-fashioned ‘white out,’ the U.S. central bank could have taken its statement issued at the conclusion of its March 16 policy meeting and re-issued it today to mark the end of its latest interest-rate confab.
Even Thomas M. Hoenig, the honorable dissenter on the Federal Open Market Committee, if left to repeat his solitary stand meeting after meeting.
Hoenig, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, doesn’t want much, just for the Fed to abandon its phrase that near-zero short-term interest rates will be kept in place for an “extended period.”
Hoenig’s understandable view, in my paraphrase: the economy is recovering, if slowly, so why use language that would seem to lock you into a longish-term commitment to emergency low rates?
Take away that “extended period” language and you would let people know that at some point you will return to merely easy monetary policy.
But the rest of the FOMC voters see no reason to shut off Groundhog Day. After all, they said (again) that “inflation is likely to be subdued for some time.”
The Fed seems to have a pretty good read on the economy. Slightly better today than in mid-March but far from out of the woods. Today, the labor market is said to be “beginning to improve.” In March it was “stabilizing.”
“Housing starts have edged up but remain at a depressed level.” In March, “housing starts have been flat.”
The key fact seems to be that “employers remain reluctant to add to payrolls,” in the words of the Fed. That hasn’t changed and will likely only change to the upside very slowly in the months ahead.
That crucial indicator, and its molasses-like improvement, will keep the Fed’s statement writers nearly idle for the next few meetings. Nothing much will need to be changed.