Fed Vice Chair Clarida: Global Economy Slowing, Relevant to U.S. Outlook

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said Friday that he is seeing evidence of a slowing global economy and that policymakers will need to account for that when making interest rate decisions over the near term.

In an interview with CNBC Television, the newest member of the Fed said interest rates were "close to to the neutral range" at the moment, but rejected the suggestion the central bank was going "too far, too fast" in signalling further hikes to keep inflation in check and ensure full employment. He added, however, that the Fed needed to be "data dependent" going forward.

"The economy this year is going to be growing at a pace we haven't seen in a decade," Clarida said. "Going forward, we have to look at a lot of trends, including the global economy, and there's some evidence that it's slowing."

"We're at a point where we need to be especially data dependent," he added "The economy is doing well and we're looking at signals from the labor market and inflation to get a sense of both the pace and destination of policy."

Benchmark U.S. Treasury bond yields fell to 3.085%, the lowest in two weeks, as Clarida's remarks were broadcast, while 2-year note yields slid to 2.812%. 

"The Fed began hiking rates almost three years ago, so it's been a very gradual cycle," he said when asked if the Bank was going "too far, too fast". "The Fed Funds is just barely above the rate of inflation for the first time in a decade."

The U.S. dollar index, which benchmarks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, fell more than 0.5%, the most in a month to 96.47 following Clarida's remarks, pushing the euro, the yen and the pound higher.

Earlier Friday, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told a banking conference in Frankfurt that "uncertainties surrounding the medium-term outlook" for the global economy have increased.

"We are witnessing a long-term slowdown in world trade," Draghi said. "Some of the factors that previously drove its rapid expansion, such as trade liberalisation and the creation of global value chains, have waned since the financial crisis."

"We are also witnessing a cyclical correction from the very strong trade growth recorded last year. Trade dynamics are now normalising as global growth retreats towards potential. If firms start to become more uncertain about the growth and inflation outlook, the squeeze on margins could prove more persistent," he said. "This would affect the speed with which underlying inflation picks up and therefore the inflation path that we expect to see in the quarters ahead."

The euro was marked at 1.1400 against the dollar following Draghi's speech as the outgoing ECB President said he saw "no reason" for the bloc's current run of 22 quarters of GDP growth.

However, Germany, the world's third largest exporter and the biggest economy in Europe, said GDP shrank by 0.2% in the three months ending in September, the first contraction since 2015, which officials said was "mainly due to foreign trade developments".

Germany's influential business lobby, the BDI, cut its 2018 export growth forecast by 50 basis points to 3% following the GDP data, and trimmed its outlook for industrial production from Europe's biggest economy to around 2.5%.

Japan, meanwhile, the world's fourth-largest export economy, shank by an annual rate of 1.2% -- more than analysts' forecasts -- as overseas sales fell the most in three years. That weakness also expressed by A.P. Moller-Maersk, the world's biggest container shipping group, which said volumes fell 1.9% over the third quarter and could decline further in the months ahead.

"The impact on global trade remains uncertain, but we estimate that the combined effect of all trade restrictions introduced during 2018 could reduce global container trade by 0.5-2.0% during 2019-2020," said CEO Soren Skou.

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