Fed ‘Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ Fueled by Weak Inflation

No one envies the Federal Reserve right now.
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No one envies the Federal Reserve right now. ‘The Fed is caught between a rock and a hard place,’ said Anthony Chan, chief economist at JPMorgan Chase. ‘The economy is doing very well, but on the price front, things are a little bit soggy.’ Personal consumption expenditures, the Fed’s favorite inflation gauge, rose 1.3 percent over the past year in August, on a core basis, which excludes food and energy prices, according to a Monday report from the Commerce Department. While that’s up from 1.2 percent in July, it’s still a far cry from the central bank’s 2 percent target. ‘But that increase over the month gives the Fed some wherewithal to say that they could be reasonably confident that they’re moving towards that 2 percent target,’ Chan added. ‘Given that monetary policy has these long and variable lags, they can’t wait until they hit that target before [raising interest rates].’ If the Fed were to hold off on making its initial rate hike until inflation met its target, the markets could be looking at a liftoff several years away. ‘Fed Chair Janet Yellen herself indicated that it would be probably take two to three years to reach that price mandate,’ Chan added. Chan expects a a liftoff announcement when the Fed meets in December. TheStreet’s Scott Gamm reports from New York.