Goldman Explains What Yellen Really Said: "Hawkish Shift"

Who best to summarize what Yellen just said (aside from Bernanke of course, however he will demand at least $250,000/hour for his profound insight), than the bank which actually runs the NY Fed: Goldman Sachs. So without further ado, here is Goldman's Jan Hatzius on what Yellen really said.

BOTTOM LINE: The Q&A of Yellen's semi-annual monetary policy testimony contained a few bits of interesting information, including a slightly hawkish shift in her description of when FOMC participants think the first rate hike may occur.


1. Asked about the timing of the first rate hike, Yellen noted that "almost all" participants expected the first rate hike at some time in 2015, and that the median projection for the fed funds rate at the end of 2015 was "around 1%." Although simply describing the content of the Summary of Economic Projections (SEP), this language was slightly more hawkish than her response to a similar question in her May Joint Economic Committee testimony, in which she noted "most members believe that in 2015 or 2016 normalization would begin under their baseline outlook." (The June SEP dots indeed shifted up slightly relative to the March dots, although the number of participants projecting the first hike in 2015 actually increased from 2 to 3.)

2. Despite acknowledging improvement, Yellen generally continued to focus on the substantial degree of slack in the labor market, and highlighted wage growth failing to significantly outpace inflation.

3. Regarding downside risks, Yellen noted that "housing is a sector where we expected to see better recovery, but it's not quantitatively important enough to cause use to judge that it would hold back the recovery."

4. Chair Yellen did not appear supportive of proposed legislation that could require the Federal Reserve to follow a formulaic policy rule. We do not think such legislation has a significant prospect of becoming law.

5. Regarding the exit strategy, Yellen stated that she thinks of the fixed-rate reverse repo (RRP) facility as a "backup tool," consistent with the description of most participants' views in the June FOMC minutes. She noted financial stability concerns regarding the facility, but indicated that maintaining a wide spread between the interest rate paid on excess reserves and the RRP rate or maintaining per-counterparty or total usage limits on the facility could mitigate these concerns.

6. Yellen noted that she had a "strong preference" for using macroprudential tools to deal with any potential financial imbalances (as opposed to shifting the core stance of monetary policy), similar to her remarks on this issue in the past.

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