EC Will The Fed Keep Inflation Contained?

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about inflation’s trajectory, but there are nascent signs that the recent surge is peaking. For example, a multi-factor measure of the directional bias for US inflation – based on The Capital Spectator’s Inflation Trend Index — continues to suggest that June will mark the high point for the recent swelling of pricing pressure.

In addition, the Cleveland Fed’s inflation forecasting model projects that after this year’s pop in prices, the trend will ease in the years ahead. For example, over the next five years, this model sees inflation at around 1.5%. Every model is wrong, but some are useful. On that point, Mark Hulbert at MarketWatch.com reports that the Cleveland Fed’s model has a relatively strong record vs. the University of Michigan’s consumer survey of inflation expectations and the Treasury market’s implied inflation outlook.

Keep in mind, too, that political pressure will probably rise for the Fed to act if inflation appears to remain higher than expected. It’s likely that if and when the Fed appears to be losing control of inflation, Fed Chairman Powell will be mercilessly pressed to explain why at the periodic public hearings in Congress.

Meanwhile, Fed policymakers are starting to talk about tapering bond purchases, a shift that — when it comes — would likely be an early sign of monetary tightening. Although tapering isn’t expected in the immediate future, the fact that the subject is receiving public attention from the central bank lays down markers that the potential for change is brewing.

“It would be healthier as we are making progress in weathering the pandemic and achieving our goals to start adjusting these purchases — Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities — sooner rather than later,” Robert Kaplan, Dallas Fed chair, noted on Monday.

As for the bank’s standard toolkit, Fed funds futures markets aren’t pricing in rate hikes for the rest of this year, but the estimated probabilities start to rise meaningfully in 2022, rising gradually to 40% a year from now, based on CME data.

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Disclosures: None.

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