Fed Sees Intensified Risks Around Trade Policy

Fed officials reaffirmed their commitment to gradually raising rates but noted that uncertainty and risks associated with trade policy had intensified, which could eventually have negative effects on business sentiment and investment spending, minutes of the Fed's June meeting showed.

Excerpts from the minutes of the FOMC's meeting held on June 12-13, 2018:

Participants reported that business fixed investment had continued to expand at a strong pace in recent months, supported in part by substantial investment growth in the energy sector. Higher oil prices were expected to continue to support investment in that sector, and District contacts in the industry were generally upbeat, though supply constraints for labor and infrastructure were reportedly limiting expansion plans. By contrast, District reports regarding the construction sector were mixed, al­though here, too, some contacts reported that supply constraints were acting as a drag on activity. Conditions in both the manufacturing and service sectors in several Districts were reportedly strong and were seen as contributing to solid investment gains. However, many District contacts expressed concern about the possible adverse effects of tariffs and other proposed trade restrictions, both domestically and abroad, on future investment activity; contacts in some Districts indicated that plans for capital spending had been scaled back or postponed as a result of uncertainty over trade policy. Contacts in the steel and aluminum industries expected higher prices as a result of the tariffs on these products but had not planned any new investments to increase capacity. Conditions in the agricultural sector reportedly improved somewhat, but contacts were concerned about the effect of potentially higher tariffs on their exports.

Participants commented on a number of risks and uncertainties associated with their outlook for economic activity, the labor market, and inflation over the medium term. Most participants noted that uncertainty and risks associated with trade policy had intensified and were concerned that such uncertainty and risks eventually could have negative effects on business sentiment and investment spending. Participants generally continued to see recent fiscal policy changes as supportive of economic growth over the next few years, and a few indicated that fiscal policy posed an upside risk. A few participants raised the concern that fiscal policy is not currently on a sustainable path. Many participants saw potential downside risks to economic growth and inflation associated with political and economic developments in Europe and some EMEs.

With regard to the medium-term outlook for monetary policy, participants generally judged that, with the economy already very strong and inflation expected to run at 2 percent on a sustained basis over the medium term, it would likely be appropriate to continue gradually raising the target range for the federal funds rate to a setting that was at or somewhat above their estimates of its longer-run level by 2019 or 2020. Participants reaffirmed that adjustments to the path for the policy rate would depend on their assessments of the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook relative to the Committee's statutory objectives.

Fed Sees Intensified Risks Around Trade Policy

Federal Reserve | Joana Ferreira | joana.ferreira@tradingeconomics.com
7/5/2018 6:28:12 PM