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Lockhart says comfortable with ‘moving off zero’; Fischer says no final decision on hike taken

FXStreet (Mumbai) - The minutes of the U.S. Fed’s October meeting released on Wednesday showed the majority of U.S. central bankers in favour of a December liftoff. Fed officials seemed confident that the goals of full employment and stable two per cent inflation can be met in due course. Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart is of the opinion that the turmoil in the global financial markets that had caused the Fed to delay rate hike, has settled considerably. "I believe it will soon be appropriate to begin a new policy phase," he said. He also expects prices to rise as the downward pressure from a strong dollar and low oil prices begin to fade. He is "comfortable with moving off zero soon," if of course there is no unexpected downturn in the economic outlook.

Lockhart feels Fed might opt for a "slow ... halting" effort to raise interest rates

Central bankers are concerned about the longer-term issues relevant to the pace of subsequent rate hikes. Markets expect the Fed to raise rates 3 times in 2016. Lockhart when questioned about the pace of rate hike said that the Fed will not hike rates in all its meetings. Fed has promised the interest rates to be gradual.

The Fed might thus now opt for a "slow ... halting" effort to raise interest rates after it raises rates for the first time in a decade. "It is possible we will end up in period where the economy justifies (a rate hike at) every meeting, but I would define gradual as 'not every meeting.'"

He re-emphasized that rate hikes will be data dependent, though he did not forget to mention that such as assertion "doesn't preclude pauses from time-to-time to evaluate whether the policy is well positioned relative to what we are seeing in the data." He feels the Fed should be cautious as it ponders how fast to continue raising rates after an initial hike. Lockhart feels new standard apt to judge the pace of further rate increases should be adopted

Lockhart chooses to be cautious and pragmatic. He said that though the Fed's targets for the U.S. labor market have largely been met and its price goals can be expected to be shortly there is no reason to be confident of the economy being in the clear. He highlighted that there continues to exist "serious concerns" with respect to the global outlook. He also said that the lower trend U.S. economic growth may imply the Fed's target "equilibrium" interest rate may be lower than that in the past.

The Fed, Lockhart thinks will also have to watch out for how it judges progress towards its 2 per cent medium-term inflation target. It will have to decide whether it should wait for clear signs of price stabilization or act even before achieving the target. With concerns about the impact of low global growth and other factors underway, Lockhart thinks a new standard apt to judge the pace of further rate increases should be adopted.

Fischer believes Fed has done all it could to avoid surprising market with rate cut

Contrary to what several economists think Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said no final decisions with respect to hiking rates have been made and officials will continue to scrutinize the data. Fischer said it was necessary to first ensure that the rate hike would not result in macroeconomic consequences that the world is not prepared for. The Fed will have to gauge whether the emerging economies are sufficiently prepared for the potential capital flows.

Fischer believes the Fed has pulled all possible stunts to avoid surprising the markets and governments when it finally hikes rates for the first time in a decade. He said that the fact that other central bankers are asking the Fed to hike implies that they have "made their preparations" to deal with the consequences.

Fischer believes Asia will likely continue to slow as the Asian economies make the transition to less export-dependent structures. Worries about the effects of China's slowdown was one of the significant considerations that prevented the Fed from raising rates in September. He thinks slowing growth in China will continue to put downward pressure on commodity prices. The impact of China slowdown will probably be less on oil would given that the richer economies to consume more oil per person thereby putting potential upward pressure on oil prices

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