Randal K Quarles: How long is too long? How high is too high? - managing recent inflation developments within the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) monetary policy framework

Speech by Mr Randal K Quarles, Vice Chair for Supervision of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, at the 2021 Milken Institute Global Conference "Charting a New Course," Beverly Hills, California, 20 October 2021.

The views expressed in this speech are those of the speaker and not the view of the BIS.

Central bank speech  | 
05 November 2021

Thank you to the Milken Institute for the opportunity to join you today. This morning I'd like to outline my view of current economic conditions and the economic outlook and then turn to the implications for monetary policy. In particular, with employment still well below its February 2020 peak, I will focus on how the escalation in inflation this year is testing the monetary policy framework adopted by the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in August 2020.

Outlook for Economic Growth

Recent data suggest that growth in the third quarter is likely to be lower than we had expected, but the foundations remain in place for strong economic growth over the remainder of this year and next. Employment is growing, financial conditions are accommodative, businesses are investing, and households, in the aggregate, have a large stock of savings to draw on for future spending. Weaker growth in payrolls in August and September, along with uneven consumer spending in July and August, appear to reflect ongoing concerns in some parts of the country about the spread of COVID-19, especially in high-contact service industries. Supply bottlenecks and labor shortages that have been more widespread and persistent than many expected are camouflaging continued strong underlying demand for goods, services, and workers. Supply constraints are particularly evident in interest-sensitive parts of the economy, such as residential investment and vehicle sales, limiting the scope for additional monetary accommodation to stimulate activity in those sectors.

I expect that these developments, however, have for the most part simply postponed activity temporarily and that robust growth will return in the coming months. There is evidence in recent weeks that we seem to be moving into a new phase of the economy. Nominal retail sales rose seven-tenths of 1 percent in September on the heels of a nine-tenths increase in August, an indication that consumers kept up their pace of spending. Robust business investment in equipment and intangibles continued in the second quarter, and indicators suggest another gain in the third quarter. Forward indicators of business spending and the need for firms to replenish depleted inventories point to strong investment into next year.