Fed’s Kaplan Wants to Talk Taper, Breaks Ranks With Powell

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Signs of excess risk taking in financial markets show it’s time for the U.S. central bank to start debating a reduction in its massive bond purchases, said the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, breaking ranks with Chair Jerome Powell.

“We’re now at a point where I’m observing excesses and imbalances in financial markets,” said Robert Kaplan during a virtual event Friday. “I’m very attentive to that, and that’s why I do think at the earliest opportunity I think will be appropriate for us to start talking about adjusting those purchases.”

Kaplan is not a voter this year on the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. The Dallas Fed chief has been one of the Fed’s more hawkish officials and has said that he projects the central bank will raise interest rates next year. The median estimate of the 18 policy makers is that rates will stay near zero through 2023.

Fed’s Kaplan Wants to Talk Taper, Breaks Ranks With Powell

His remarks contradict Powell, who told reporters Wednesday that the “time is not yet” to talk about tapering the Fed’s $120 billion monthly pace of bond buying.

”It’s not surprising that Kaplan is making a case now for tapering because he’s already been making the case,” said Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank AG. “The surprising thing is that it’s so soon right after Chair Powell had been very explicit in saying now is not the time to talk about tapering. That’s the dichotomy there.”

Powell spoke after the FOMC unanimously voted to hold interest rates near zero and repeated it would maintain the pace of bond buying until “substantial further progress” had been made on its goals for employment and inflation.

Kaplan, the first official to speak publicly snce the post-FOMC blackout period ended, said that threshold was approaching faster than anticipated as the U.S. economy recovers from the pandemic.

“I think we’re going to reach that benchmark sooner than I would have expected in January and others would have expected,” he said. “I think the U.S. economy will be far healthier when we have the ability to start weaning off those purchases.”

A stock market at record highs, tight credit spreads and private investors driving up housing prices all point to imbalances in financial markets, Kaplan said. He’s paying particular attention to investors buying up single-family properties, often using all-cash offers to outbid families looking to purchase their first home.

“We’ve got real excesses in the housing market,” Kaplan said. “It’s not yet the speculative situation that we had back in ‘07, ‘08 and ‘09, but I think it bears watching and keeping a close eye on.”

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