Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser spoke at the University of Delaware Tuesday morning and while there was a lot of enthusiasm and optimism coming from Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s testimony in D.C., Plosser was not so rosy.
Plosser said that history is not on the side of the Federal Reserve in knowing when it is time to raise interest rates, and if the central bank doesn’t take the initiative, financial markets will force the issue.
It is always easier and popular to lower interest rates to spur economic activity than to raise them.
Plosser is a leading hawk and a voting member of the Federal Open Markets Committee.
“It’s the nature of the beast. I am worried that we are going to be too late and that we are going to resist and resist raising rates and we are going to wait until it is so obvious we need to raise rates that we are going to be behind," Plosser said.
"Financial markets aren't always patient and they could decide it is time to raise rates and long-term rates start rising and interest rates start going up and we are going to be forced to chase them up. Then we will be behind," he said. "I don't want to chase the market, but we may end up having to do that.”
Plosser said he wasn’t too concerned about disappointing jobs numbers in December and January.
"I suspect it may be another couple of months before we have a better read on the economy," Plosser said, playing off jobs numbers as made unreliable by winter weather.
The January jobs report showed just 113,000 new jobs, following just 75,000 in December.
The unemployment rate dipped to 6.6%, a five-year low, largely on people dropping out of the workforce, as the current rate of job creation isn’t enough to keep pace with population growth.
Plosser reaffirmed that the Fed should move faster in tapering its bond-purchasing program, which he said were “neither helpful nor essential." He also reaffirmed his opposition to using more QE to affect interest rates.
"We have done over $1 trillion of QE since a year-ago September and inflation rates have come down. If you are worried about inflation being too low it is not at all obvious the right answer is more QE," he said.