A prominent Federal Reserve official suggested that the central bank should start thinking about when to begin tapering its aggressive bond-buying policies.
Philadelphia Fed Bank President Patrick Harker’s Wednesday remarks come as the economy continues rapid demand-driven expansion as the United States emerges from its pandemic-induced recession. Some experts have warned that the economy is now at risk of overheating given the Fed’s monetary policies.
“I think it is appropriate for us to slowly, carefully move back on our purchases at the appropriate time,” Harker said during an event with Women in Housing and Finance. “When that is, that is something we need to start discussing.”
In his prepared remarks for the virtual gathering, Harker said that while the bank is planning to keep the federal funds rate low for a while, he added that it might be time to “think about thinking about tapering our $120 billion in monthly Treasury bond and mortgage-backed securities purchases.”
“This is not something we are going to do suddenly, though,” his speech read. “We need to follow the playbook we had after the Great Recession; that is, start to taper the bond purchases slowly. We will remove accommodation carefully and methodically as the economy continues to strengthen.”
Harker’s comments fell on the same day that the Fed released its so-called beige book report, which is a collection of business anecdotes from each of the regional banks and a summation of the current nationwide economic environment. The Fed found that the economy expanded at a moderate pace and at a “somewhat faster rate” than during the previous reporting period.
The report also acknowledged creeping prices, which have sparked fear of too-high inflation among some economists. While the central bank is targeting 2% sustained growth, it has said that it expects prices to breach that target before settling back down next year.
“On balance, overall price pressures increased further since the last report,” Wednesday’s beige book read. “Selling prices increased moderately, while input costs rose more briskly. Input costs have continued to increase across the board, with many contacts noting sharp increases in construction and manufacturing raw materials prices.”
It went on to say that looking forward, contacts expect that costs will only further increase and that prices will have to be raised in the coming months to handle the inflation.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who served under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, recently cautioned that inflation and overheating are now the biggest threat to economic stability — not slow growth and unemployment.
“This is not just conjecture,” Summers recently said. “The consumer price index rose at a 7.5 % annual rate in the first quarter, and inflation expectations jumped at the fastest rate since inflation indexed bonds were introduced a generation ago. Already, consumer prices have risen almost as much as the Fed predicted for the whole year.”