Fed’s Bullard Warns of Too-Low Inflation and Risk of Slowdown

(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve policy maker James Bullard said his colleagues should think about cutting interest rates again to guard against threats to the economy such as the U.S.-China trade dispute.

While declining to predict the outcome of this month’s meeting, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis president told Bloomberg Television’s Tom Keene and Francine Lacqua that inflation and inflation expectations have declined and need to be recentered around the 2% target.

“We have to consider additional insurance in the meetings ahead,” he said. “We’re generally speaking in good shape. I have emphasized that we face some downside risks from the trade war and I’ve tried to encourage the committee to take action.”

Bullard, who has been among the most dovish participants on the Federal Open Market Committee, said he considers the current policy stance to be neutral for the economy and that it could become “slightly accommodative soon.” He acknowledged that his estimate of the neutral level is probably lower than for other people.

Fed officials who have cut interest rates at their past two meetings are debating when to stop, according to minutes of the past meeting released last week.

Investors expect the FOMC to lower rates by another quarter percentage point at its upcoming Oct. 29-30 meeting, though Chairman Jerome Powell hasn’t given a firm signal that it will act.

Fed’s Bullard Warns of Too-Low Inflation and Risk of Slowdown

Bullard was in London for Bloomberg’s monetary and financial policy conference on Tuesday, where he said in prepared remarks that the rising risks to growth may make it more difficult to hit the inflation target.

He has argued for several years that persistently lower growth has created a new low-inflation regime where low rates are appropriate. The U.S. economy is slowing this year, as is the global economy. In addition, a recent inversion in the Treasury yield curve -- meaning short-term rates are higher than long-term rates -- is a warning signal for a slowdown or recession.

At the conference, Bullard also said trade is a “Pandora’s Box” which is very hard to resolve, and not a problem that can be fixed by monetary policy. He described recent volatility in repo markets as a technical rather than a macroeconomic issue, and said the launch of a standing repo facility by the central bank would be a sensible “endgame.”

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