What to Know About Fed Vice Chair Candidate Loretta Mester

Date : 02/13/2018 @ 5:54PM
Source : Dow Jones News

What to Know About Fed Vice Chair Candidate Loretta Mester

By David Harrison 

Loretta Mester, a candidate for the Federal Reserve Board's vice chair position, has served as Cleveland Fed president since 2014. Before that, she spent almost her entire career as an economist at the Philadelphia Fed, rising to the position of executive vice president and research director. Here are five things to know about Ms. Mester.

She's Mildly Hawkish and Willing to Dissent

Ms. Mester frequently supports slightly higher interest rates than many of her colleagues, making her "hawkish" in central-bank jargon. This year, for instance, Fed officials' median projection is for three rate increases, while she has said she expects three or four.

She cast two dissenting votes, in September and November 2016, against her colleagues' decision to hold the Fed's benchmark interest rate steady in a very low range of between 0.25% and 0.5%. In both cases, she wanted to raise the range by a quarter percentage point.

Last month, however, she voted with other Fed officials to leave their benchmark rate unchanged in a range between 1.25% and 1.5%.

She Sees Inflation Rising Faster Than Her Colleagues

Fed officials see inflation returning to their 2% target by the end of 2019. But Ms. Mester expects inflation to accelerate somewhat faster. In November, she said she projected inflation moving to 2% this year "but not as early as the first quarter."

She also is willing to reassess the Fed's 2% inflation target, particularly now that the economy is doing well, although she hasn't endorsed any specific changes. She has praised the Bank of Canada's model, which re-examines its inflation target every five years.

She's Bullish on Growth

Ms. Mester has started raising her expectations for economic growth in the next year or two in light of the recent tax overhaul and other Trump administration fiscal policies. She expects the tax cuts to add between a quarter and a half percentage point to the economic growth rate this year, but she sees a greater likelihood that the economy could grow faster than she estimates rather than slower.

She's Not Worried About Market Wobbles

Ms. Mester said Tuesday she doesn't see the markets' recent volatility as something to worry about, though a sharper and longer-lasting drop could change that view. "I expect the economy will work through this episode of market turbulence, and I have not changed my outlook," she said.

Yields on longer-termed Treasury bonds have been rising lately, a sign of increased confidence that the economy will generate slightly more inflation, she added. "That's not a negative." Her comments suggest she shares Fed officials' reluctance to intervene when stock prices take a fall unless it shakes their economic forecasts.

Don't Expect Her to Endorse a Mathematical Rule

Ms. Mester has said she considers several mathematical formulas -- such as the Taylor rule -- for determining interest rates. But, like many of her Fed colleagues, she has been reluctant to commit the central bank to following a single rule, something many Capitol Hill Republicans have been pushing for. "I am not advocating setting policy mechanically according to a simple policy rule; no rule works well enough across a variety of economic models and circumstances," she said last month. If she is nominated, the question could come up in her confirmation hearing.

Write to David Harrison at david.harrison@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 13, 2018 17:39 ET (22:39 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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