Guynn Forecasts Solid Growth for 2006; Calls for Response to Long-Term Challenges

For immediate release: Jan. 9, 2006

ATLANTA - Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Guynn today characterized U.S. economic performance last year as solid, and he forecast a similar pace of economic expansion in 2006. “We begin 2006 with an economy that in my view looks set to continue on a good path of sustainable gross domestic product growth in the range of 3 to 4 percent,” he said. “The economic fundamentals appear sound—consumer spending, business spending, and hiring should continue to grow at a solid pace. And inflation expectations should remain anchored.”

Despite this generally positive outlook, Guynn, in remarks to the Rotary Club of Atlanta, also recognized that some of the recent public discourse on the direction of the economy has not been so optimistic. He cited three long-range issues that may be contributing to some concern that economic trouble lies ahead. One issue is higher energy costs. Another issue in the public consciousness, he said, is downward pressure on wage growth, coupled with concerns about employee health care and pension programs. Finally, Guynn mentioned the long-term fiscal outlook, which he described as “very worrisome,” and he called on fiscal policymakers to address budget shortfalls while the economy is strong.

Guynn also discussed monetary policy, beginning with a review of the Fed’s actions to gradually increase the fed funds rate target from 1 percent in mid-2004 to its current level of 4.25 percent. “For me, the overriding policy consideration in 2005 was to lean against potential inflationary pressures. During the year, our business contacts suggested that elevated energy prices and other cost pressures were providing both the incentive and the determination to pass through those higher costs,” he said.

Despite some upward drift in headline measures of inflation in 2005, Guynn said core measures, excluding volatile food and energy costs, have been stable in recent months. “In my view, adjustments in monetary policy have helped to limit these inflationary pressures,” he said, noting that global competitive pressures and strong productivity growth have also contributed to the current low-inflation environment.

In line with the Fed’s mission to foster full employment and stable prices, Guynn stressed that the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is presently focused on preventing the emergence of rising inflation expectations. “Once unleashed, expectations of higher inflation can distort business decision making and erode market confidence,” he said.

Because the Fed has removed much of the accommodation from monetary policy, the central bank is approaching an uncertain time for policymaking. “Given the steady diet of ’measured’ rate hikes the Fed has provided in the past year and a half, many of you may be wondering when enough is enough,” he said. “Let me first respond by saying the closer we get, the less explicit we can be on that point.” Guynn cited recent FOMC minutes noting that “the number of additional firming steps required probably would not be large.” But he said the committee needs to retain sufficient flexibility to respond to unexpected developments.

A transcript of Guynn’s remarks is available.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta serves the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. As part of the nation’s central banking system, the Atlanta Fed participates in setting national monetary policy, supervises numerous commercial banks and provides a variety of financial services to depository institutions and the U.S. government.


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Contact: Jean Tate 404-498-8035