Guynn Examines Effects of Low Interest Rates
As growth in the U.S. economy gains momentum, the Federal Reserve will at some point need to reassess its current accommodative monetary policy stance, said Jack Guynn, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
If my forecast for robust economic growth materializes, then, at some point, a federal funds rate of 1 percent will no longer be the best monetary policy, Guynn said in a late March speech to the Center for Banking at East Tennessee State University.
Guynn expects the strong pace of growth reported in the second
half of 2003 to carry forward this year but with a different
composition. Spending on housing and durables should continue
to grow steadily, but early indications are that business
investment spending will be stronger and may account for a
larger proportion of overall growth, he added.
Job growth gained strength during 2004 but has not kept pace
with gross domestic product growth, Guynn noted. While
businesses now have become aggressive again when it comes
to upgrading equipment, they remain cautious when it comes
to human capital, he said, noting that employment has
lagged the pace of recovery seen in prior recessions. He cited
productivity as an important factor in the murky
employment situation. Ongoing gains in labor productivity
could act to constrain the overall pace of new hiring for
a little while longer.
Guynn also discussed monetary policys role in cushioning a recessionary period. He stressed the importance of eventually returning to more historically normal interest rate levels as the economy gains strength, but he did not cite specific timing.
He advised businesses not to assume a continuation of accommodative policy in future plans. Just as I dont want concerns about future inflation to play a major role in business decision making, I also dont want businesses to build their plans on expectations of a continuation of accommodative monetary policy without regard to prospective economic conditions or the necessary policy changes that may need to accompany them, he said.
To illustrate the potential risks of leaving monetary policy accommodative for too long, Guynn used a medical analogy. A seriously ill patient may need a strong dose of medication, Guynn noted. As the patient begins to recover, however, there is a need to recalibrate the dosage or to stop prescribing it entirely to avoid potential side effects.