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    Federal Reserve Rolls Out Tough Trading Restrictions After Scandal

    The Federal Reserve on Friday adopted a new set of ethics rules meant to prevent questionable financial market trading activity by top officials, a sweeping response to a scandal that has rocked the central bank since late last year.Fed officials traded in individual stocks, real estate securities and stock funds in 2020, a year in which the central bank rolled out a range of pandemic response programs that placed officials’ day-to-day decisions at the core of what happened in financial markets. Three high-ranking policymakers resigned earlier than they had planned after news of the trading broke last year and early in 2022.Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, acknowledged in the wake of the revelations that he and his colleagues were not “happy” with what had happened and said they would revamp the central bank’s ethics rules to prevent a similar situation in the future.The new rules, which were previewed in October, aim to fulfill that promise. They prevent senior officials from purchasing individual stocks or funds tracing business sectors, the Fed said, and they ban investments in individual bonds, cryptocurrencies, commodities or foreign currencies, among other securities.Senior Fed officials must now announce that they are buying or selling a security 45 days in advance, and that notice will not be retractable. Investments must be held for at least one year under the new guidelines.The Fed’s 12 regional bank presidents will be required to publicly disclose securities transactions within 30 days, the way that its seven board members in Washington already do. They must post financial disclosures on their bank websites, something they now do only sporadically.The fresh set of rules will apply to a wide array of personnel with access to sensitive information, from reserve bank first vice presidents and research directors to high-ranking staff members and people designated by the chair.The Fed will also extend its financial trading blackout period — which typically applies in the run-up to Fed meetings — by one day after each meeting. That will align it with the period in which Fed officials are not allowed to give speeches.Most of the restrictions will take effect on May 1, although the new rules on the advance notice and preclearance of transactions will take effect on July 1.Financial disclosures released in late 2021 showed that Robert S. Kaplan, the former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president, had made big individual-stock trades, while Eric S. Rosengren, the Boston Fed president, had traded in real estate securities. Mr. Kaplan resigned in September, citing the scandal; Mr. Rosengren resigned simultaneously, citing health issues.Richard H. Clarida, then the Fed’s vice chair, sold and then rapidly repurchased a stock fund on the eve of a major Fed decision, corrected financial disclosures showed. Mr. Clarida also resigned slightly earlier than planned, though he did not cite a reason. More

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    Richard Clarida Is Resigning From the Fed Early After New Questions on Trades

    Richard H. Clarida, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, announced on Monday that he would resign from his position two weeks earlier than planned. While he did not give a reason, he had faced renewed scrutiny about trades he made in 2020 as the central bank was poised to rescue financial markets.“With my statutory term as governor due to expire on Jan. 31, 2022, I am writing to inform you that it is my intention to resign from the board on Jan. 14, 2022,” Mr. Clarida wrote in a letter to President Biden that the Fed released Monday.The New York Times reported last week that Mr. Clarida had corrected his 2020 financial disclosures in late December. Ethics experts said one of his updated trades raised questions — he sold a stock fund on Feb. 24 before repurchasing it on Feb. 27, just before the chair of the Fed announced on Feb. 28 that the central bank stood ready to help markets and the economy.His initial disclosures had noted only the purchase of the stock fund, which the Fed had described on his behalf as a planned portfolio rebalancing. But the rapid move out of and back into stocks called that explanation into question, some experts said, and the repurchase could have put Mr. Clarida in a position to benefit as the Fed reassured markets.Neither the Fed nor Mr. Clarida provided an new explanation for the trades, though the Fed’s ethics office noted in the updated filing that they still appeared to be in compliance with conflict-of-interest laws.Mr. Clarida’s updated disclosure drew widespread media coverage and lawmaker attention. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, called on the Fed on Monday to release more information about trades by top Fed officials in light of the news.The amended disclosure and volley of attention came at an inopportune moment for Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, who has been renominated to his position by Mr. Biden. He is scheduled to appear on Tuesday at a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.Ms. Warren sits on the Banking Committee, so Mr. Powell is still almost sure to face questions about why some Fed officials traded so actively as markets gyrated and the Fed staged a huge rescue at the start of the pandemic.“The whole rebalancing story, that just collapses in the face of the fact that he sold and then bought,” said Simon Johnson, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “If you are Chair Powell, you don’t want to have your reconfirmation hearing focused on this.”Mr. Powell and his colleagues have in recent months revamped the central bank’s ethics guidelines — in October releasing plans to overhaul them and prevent many types of financial activity, including trading during times of turmoil. He may point to that as a sign of how seriously the Fed has taken the issue.Mr. Clarida’s resignation is the latest development in a monthslong trading scandal that has embroiled top officials and prompted high-profile departures at the Fed.Financial disclosures released in late 2021 showed that Robert S. Kaplan, the former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, had made big individual-stock trades, while Eric S. Rosengren, the former Boston Fed president, had traded in real estate securities. Those moves drew immediate and intense backlash from lawmakers, ethics experts and former Fed employees.Fed officials were actively rescuing a broad swath of markets in 2020. In March and April, they slashed rates to zero, bought mortgage-tied and government bonds in mass quantities, and rolled out rescue programs for corporate and municipal debt.The concern is that continuing to deal in affected securities for their own portfolios throughout the year could have given officials room to profit from their privileged knowledge.Mr. Kaplan resigned in September, citing the scandal; Mr. Rosengren resigned simultaneously, citing health issues.Mr. Clarida’s term was scheduled to end at the close of this month because his seat as governor was expiring. Bloomberg News first reported on his stock fund purchase — what was visible before he corrected the disclosure — in October.While Mr. Clarida didn’t address the trading issues in his resignation letter, he did mention them indirectly during a speech late last year.“I’ve always acquitted myself honorably and with integrity with respect to the obligations of public service,” he said in mid-October.The Fed’s government watchdog is investigating the trades officials made in 2020, and Ms. Warren has called for an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The S.E.C. does not comment on whether such investigations are underway.Mr. Clarida has been vice chair since 2018, and during that time has been a close collaborator of Mr. Powell’s and a valuable second-in-command. His speeches were closely watched by Wall Street for the policy signals they often offered, and he was lauded for his skills as a clear and careful communicator.He also led a push to revamp the Fed’s policy-setting framework to make it more focused on employment and more fitted to the challenges of the modern economic era, one of the major hallmarks of Mr. Powell’s first term.“I will miss his wise counsel and vital insights,” Mr. Powell said in a statement announcing Mr. Clarida’s early departure. More

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    Jerome Powell Will Acknowledge Inflation’s Toll in Senate Testimony

    Jerome H. Powell, the Federal Reserve chair whom President Biden has nominated for a second four-year term, is set to tell senators on Tuesday that central bankers will use their economic tools to keep inflation — which has been high — from becoming entrenched.Mr. Powell, who is scheduled to testify before the Senate Banking Committee as he seeks confirmation, faces reappointment at an anxious economic moment. Inflation is running at the fastest pace in nearly 40 years. While economists have hoped for months that it would soon fade, that has yet to happen. Higher prices are chipping away at household incomes, even as wages rise and as companies hire at a solid clip.“We know that high inflation exacts a toll, particularly for those less able to meet the higher costs of essentials like food, housing and transportation,” Mr. Powell will tell lawmakers, according to his prepared remarks. “We are strongly committed to achieving our statutory goals of maximum employment and price stability.”Mr. Powell and his colleagues in recent months have reoriented their policies to pull back on support for the economy in light of the inflationary burst. They are slowing a large bond-buying program they had been using to keep longer-term borrowing cheap and to stoke the economy, and they could raise interest rates as soon as March.“Monetary policy must take a broad and forward-looking view, keeping pace with an ever-evolving economy,” Mr. Powell will tell senators.Economists increasingly expect Fed officials to make three or even four increases this year and eventually to shrink the size of their bond holdings, policies that together will make borrowing more expensive for households and businesses, take juice out of the stock market and slow overall growth.The pivot — which squarely puts the Fed in inflation-fighting mode — could assuage some lawmakers who are worried that the central bank is going to allow inflation to jump out of control. Even so, some may worry what has taken monetary policymakers so long.Others may ask whether the central bank risks overdoing it. Removing support for the economy could slow the job market and curtail hiring while virus concerns and child care issues are keeping many former workers on the labor market’s sidelines.Mr. Powell most likely will also need to address a trading scandal that has rocked the Fed in recent months. Several prominent central bankers traded financial assets for their own portfolios in early 2020, when the Fed was very active in rescuing markets.One, Richard H. Clarida, the vice chair, recently corrected his financial disclosures in a way that made his hot-button transaction — a move into stocks that took place on the eve of a big Fed announcement — look less like the rebalancing that the Fed originally said it had been and more like a response to market conditions.Mr. Clarida announced on Monday that he would resign earlier than planned from the Fed.Mr. Powell did not address that development directly in the prepared remarks, but he pledged to be fair and independent in policy choices.“I am committed to making those decisions with objectivity, integrity and impartiality, based on the best available evidence and in the longstanding tradition of monetary policy independence,” he will say. More

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    Senator Elizabeth Warren Presses Fed for More Information on Officials' Trades

    Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, pressed the central bank to provide more information by next Monday.Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, asked the Federal Reserve in a letter sent Monday to release more information about a series of financial trades that several top officials made in 2020, when the Fed was actively propping up markets.The Fed has become embroiled in a scandal over the transactions, which occurred in the months around its no-holds-barred market rescue at the outset of the pandemic, raising the possibility that policymakers could have financially benefited from the information they held and the decisions they were making. Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, has acknowledged that the trades were a problem and acted quickly to overhaul the central bank’s ethics rules.But that has not stemmed the fallout. Mr. Powell, who was nominated for a second term as chair by President Biden, will almost surely face questions about the Fed’s ethics dilemma at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee. Ms. Warren, who sits on that committee, is pushing for more details about Fed trading activity and new ethics rules, according to the new letter, which she sent to Mr. Powell. Ms. Warren, who previously requested that the Fed turn over information and documents surrounding the trades, is asking the Fed to “release all available information about the trades” by next Monday.Ms. Warren said in her letter that the central bank had failed to fully respond to her previous requests for information.Ms. Warren, who has criticized Mr. Powell’s tenure as chair, has said she will not support his renomination.Scrutiny of the 2020 trades has intensified after The New York Times reported last week that Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, failed to initially disclose the full extent of his trading in his original financial disclosure. Mr. Clarida amended his disclosures in late December, and the document showed that he had moved out of a stock fund as the markets were plunging during the pandemic. Three days later, he moved back into the same fund, just before Mr. Powell announced that the central bank stood ready to rescue markets.Ethics experts said the new information called into question the central bank’s original explanation that Mr. Clarida’s transaction was a preplanned rebalancing away from bonds and toward stocks, and said more information was needed to understand the trades.The new information “raises suspicions that the Fed may be failing to disclose the full scope of the scandal to the public,” Ms. Warren wrote. “I therefore ask that you respond in full to my request by January 17, 2022.”Mr. Clarida updated his disclosures after noticing “inadvertent errors,” a Fed representative said last week, and the Fed’s ethics officer said the newly noted trades were “in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest.” Still, they have drawn scrutiny because the rapid move out of and back into a stock fund at a time of market tumult looked less like a rebalancing toward stocks and more like a possible response to market conditions.“This revelation is just the latest evidence of a deep-rooted ethics failure at the Fed and the urgent need for a comprehensive information release about officials’ trading activity,” Ms. Warren wrote. More

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    A Fed Official’s 2020 Trade Drew Outcry. It Went Further Than First Disclosed.

    Corrected disclosures show that Vice Chair Richard H. Clarida sold a stock fund, then swiftly repurchased it before a big Fed announcement.Richard H. Clarida, the departing vice chair of the Federal Reserve, failed to initially disclose the extent of a financial transaction he made in early 2020 as the Fed was preparing to swoop in and rescue markets amid the unfolding pandemic.Mr. Clarida previously came under fire for buying shares on Feb. 27 in an investment fund that holds stocks — one day before the Fed chair, Jerome H. Powell, announced that the central bank stood ready to help the economy as the pandemic set in. The transaction drew an outcry from lawmakers and watchdog groups because it put Mr. Clarida in a position to benefit as the Fed restored market confidence.Mr. Clarida’s recently amended financial disclosure showed that the vice chair sold that same stock fund on Feb. 24, at a moment when financial markets were plunging amid fears of the virus.The Fed initially described the Feb. 27 transaction as a previously planned move by Mr. Clarida away from bonds and into stocks, the type of “rebalancing” investors often do when they want to take on more risk and earn higher returns over time. But the rapid move out of stocks and then back in makes it look less like a planned, long-term financial maneuver and more like a response to market conditions.“It undermines the claim that this was portfolio rebalancing,” said Peter Conti-Brown, a Fed historian at the University of Pennsylvania. “This is deeply problematic.”The Fed did not provide further explanation of Mr. Clarida’s trade when asked why he had sold and bought in quick succession. Asked if the Fed stood by previous indications that the move was a rebalancing, a spokesperson did not comment.The correction to the disclosures was released late last month and came after Mr. Clarida noticed “inadvertent errors” in his initial filings, a Fed spokesperson said, noting that the holdings were in broad funds (as opposed to investing in individual stocks). Mr. Clarida did not comment for this article.The extent of Mr. Clarida’s transaction is the latest development in a monthslong trading scandal that has embroiled top Fed officials and prompted high-profile departures at the usually staid central bank.Financial disclosures released in late 2021 showed that Robert S. Kaplan, the former Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president, had made big individual-stock trades, while Eric S. Rosengren, the Boston Fed president, had traded in real estate securities. Those moves drew immediate and intense backlash from lawmakers, ethics experts and former Fed employees alike.That’s because Fed officials were actively rescuing a broad swath of markets in 2020: In March and April, they slashed rates to zero, bought mortgage-tied and government bonds in mass quantities, and rolled out rescue programs for corporate and municipal debt. Continuing to trade in affected securities for their own portfolios throughout the year could have given them room to profit from their privileged knowledge. At a minimum, it created an appearance problem, one that Mr. Powell himself has acknowledged.Mr. Kaplan resigned in September, citing the scandal; Mr. Rosengren resigned simultaneously, citing health issues. Mr. Clarida’s term ends at the close of this month, which it was scheduled to do before news of the scandal broke.Mr. Clarida’s trades, which Bloomberg reported earlier, also raised eyebrows among lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has demanded a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Fed officials’ 2020 trading. But many ethics experts had seen the transaction as more benign, if poorly timed, because it happened in a broad-based index and the Fed had said it was part of a planned and longer-term investment strategy.The new disclosure casts doubt on that explanation, given that Mr. Clarida sold out of stocks just days before moving back into them.“It’s peculiar,” said Norman Eisen, an ethics official in the Obama White House who said he probably would not have approved such a trade. “It’s fair to ask — in what respect does this constitute a rebalancing?”It is unclear whether Mr. Clarida benefited financially from the trade, but it was most likely a lucrative move. By selling the stock fund as its value began to plummet and buying it back days later when the price per share was lower, Mr. Clarida would have ended up holding more shares, assuming he reinvested all of the money that he had withdrawn. The financial disclosures put both transactions in a range of $1 million to $5 million.The sale-and-purchase move would have made money within a few days, as stock markets and the fund in question increased in value after Mr. Powell’s announcement. The investment would have then lost money as stocks sank again amid the deepening pandemic crisis.But the fund’s value recovered after the Fed’s extensive interventions in markets. Assuming they were held, the holdings would ultimately have appreciated in value and turned a bigger profit than they would have had Mr. Clarida merely held the original investment without selling or buying.The Fed was aware of the reputational risk around trading as the pandemic kicked into high gear — the Board of Governors’ ethics office sent an email in late March 2020 encouraging officials to hold off on personal trades — but notable transactions happened in late February and again as early as May in spite of that, its officials’ disclosures suggest.Mr. Powell has acknowledged the optics and ethics problem the trading created, saying that “no one is happy” to “have these questions raised.” He and his colleagues moved quickly to overhaul the Fed’s trading-related rules after the revelations, releasing new and stricter ethics standards that will force officials to trade less rapidly while banning many types of investment.The individuals in question also faced censure. They are under independent investigation to see if their transactions were legal and consistent with internal central bank rules. The S.E.C. declined to comment on whether it has opened or will open an investigation into Mr. Clarida’s trades and his colleagues’, as Ms. Warren had requested.While the officials who came under the most scrutiny for their trades have left or will leave soon, the new disclosure could cause problems for the Fed’s remaining leaders — including Mr. Powell, whom President Biden recently renominated to a second term as chair.Mr. Powell will appear before the Senate Banking Committee next week for his confirmation hearing, as will Lael Brainard, a Fed governor, whom Mr. Biden nominated to replace Mr. Clarida as vice chair.Both could face sticky questions about why a Fed culture permissive of trading at activist moments was, until recently, allowed to prevail. Mr. Powell led the organization, while Ms. Brainard headed the committee in charge of reserve bank oversight.Jerome H. Powell and his colleagues moved quickly to overhaul the Fed’s trading-related rules after the revelations.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesThe trading scandal has also resurfaced longstanding concerns about whether the Fed is too cozy with Wall Street, and whether its officials are working for the public or to profit from their own actions.If he is asked about the scandal, Mr. Powell is likely to point to the tougher ethics guidelines that the Fed unveiled in October. Mr. Clarida’s apparently rapid transaction would most likely have been trickier under the new rules, which require officials to give 45 days’ notice before buying an asset, and which prevent trading during tumultuous market periods.The updated disclosures do show that Mr. Clarida was “in compliance with applicable laws and regulations governing conflicts of interest,” based on the Fed ethics officer’s assessment. But that alone is unlikely to prevent scrutiny.Regardless of legality, “the public would be concerned if it turned out that he bought shares of the fund before a major announcement by the Federal Reserve potentially affecting the value of his shares,” Walter Shaub, a former government ethics official now at the Project on Government Oversight, said in an email.Mr. Shaub said more information was needed to know if the trade was problematic, including whether Mr. Clarida knew the Feb. 28 announcement was coming — and when he knew that.The Fed previously told Bloomberg that Mr. Clarida was not yet involved in deliberations about the coronavirus response at the time of the trade.But Mr. Clarida was in close touch with his colleagues throughout that week. He had a call with a board member and a regional Fed president on Feb. 26, his calendars show. That is the way the Fed typically lists meetings of the Fed chair, vice chair and New York Fed president — the Fed’s so-called troika, which sets the agenda for central bank policy — on its largely anonymized official calendars.Mr. Conti-Brown said that regardless of how much Mr. Clarida knew about his colleagues’ plans, the February trades were an issue that the Fed needed to explain in detail.“Richard Clarida is a decision maker,” he said. “The deliberations that happen within his brain are what matter here.” More

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    Inflation Worries Dominated the Federal Reserve’s Last Meeting

    Worries about inflation dominated the Federal Reserve’s November policy meeting, with some policymakers suggesting that the central bank should move more quickly to reduce its bond-buying program in order to give it flexibility to raise interest rates sooner if necessary, minutes from the Fed’s November meeting showed.The Fed has been buying $120 billion in bonds each month and has kept interest rates near zero, policy moves that have helped make borrowing cheap and keep money flowing through the economy. Earlier this month, the Fed took the first step toward withdrawing support for the economy when it announced that it would begin scaling back its Treasury bond and mortgage-backed security purchases by $15 billion a month starting in November.“Some participants suggested that reducing the pace of net asset purchases by more than $15 billion each month could be warranted so that the committee would be in a better position to make adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, particularly in light of inflation pressures,” the minutes showed, referring to the Federal Open Market Committee, which sets interest rates.Those comments reflected uncertainty at the central bank over how long supply chain kinks and elevated prices might continue. Fed officials maintained their expectation that inflation would diminish “significantly during 2022,” but policymakers “indicated that their uncertainty regarding this assessment had increased.”“Many participants pointed to considerations that might suggest that elevated inflation could prove more persistent,” officials said..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}Inflation has picked up over the past year, posing a challenge for the Fed, which is responsible for maintaining stable prices and fostering maximum employment. Prices have continued to surge since the Fed’s last meeting, a trajectory that could push policymakers to reduce their economic support more quickly than previously expected.Inflation has climbed as supply-chain snarls, soaring demand for goods and wage hikes have pushed prices higher; policymakers noted that increased rent and energy prices have also played a role. Inflation has become a persistent issue for the White House, depressing President Biden’s approval ratings and complicating the path to a full economic recovery from the pandemic.Data released on Wednesday showed that prices were rising at the fastest pace in three decades as consumers face higher prices for gas and food. Prices climbed by 5 percent in the 12 months through October, according to the Personal Consumption Expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation.Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, hinted last week that it could be appropriate for policymakers to consider speeding up their process of slowing bond purchases at their next gathering, saying that he will be looking “closely at the data that we get between now and the December meeting.”Mary Daly, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, told Yahoo Finance this week that she would be open to supporting a quicker end to the bond-buying program if economic trends did not improve.Understand the Supply Chain CrisisCard 1 of 5Covid’s impact on the supply chain continues. More

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    Fed Minutes September 2021: Officials Worried About Supply Chains

    Federal Reserve officials were preparing to begin slowing down monetary policy support as soon as the middle of November, minutes from their September meeting showed, and policymakers debated when they might need to raise rates amid rising inflation risks.The Fed has been buying $120 billion in bonds each month and holding the federal funds rate near zero to make borrowing cheap and keep money flowing through the economy, stoking demand and speeding up the recovery. But the central bank’s officials signaled after their Sept. 21-22 meeting that they might announce a plan to pare back those asset purchases as soon as early November. Minutes from the gathering, released Wednesday, provided additional details on that plan.The minutes suggested that “if a decision to begin tapering purchases occurred at the next meeting, the process of tapering could commence with the monthly purchase calendars beginning in either mid-November or mid-December.”The process could end by the middle of next year, the minutes indicated. That backed up the timeline that Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, laid out during his news conference after the meeting.At the same time, Fed officials have been clear that they will continue to support the economy with low interest rates as the job market continues to heal. Their hopes of moving very gradually when it comes to rate increases could be complicated by rapidly rising prices, though, as supply chain disruptions tied to the pandemic persist and rising rents raise the prospect of sustained increases.The minutes showed that “various” meeting participants thought that rates should stay at or near zero for a couple of years, warning that long-run trends that had dragged inflation down before the pandemic would again come to dominate. But “in contrast, a number” of Fed officials said that rates would need to increase next year, and that “some of these participants saw inflation as likely to remain elevated in 2022 with risks to the upside.”The committee as a whole fretted about supply chain disruptions, which have been pushing inflation higher and curbing growth. They discussed several bottlenecks, including in the housing industry.“Participants noted that residential construction had been restrained by shortages of materials and other inputs and that home sales had been held back by limited supplies of available homes,” the minutes showed. Later, they added that “firms in a number of industries were facing challenges keeping up with strong demand due to widespread supply chain bottlenecks as well as labor shortages.”And officials noted that they might take time to fade.“Most participants saw inflation risks as weighted to the upside because of concerns that supply disruptions and labor shortages might last longer and might have larger or more persistent effects on prices and wages than they currently assumed,” the minutes showed.“Participants noted that their district contacts generally did not expect these bottlenecks to be fully resolved until sometime next year or even later.”Consumer prices jumped more than expected last month, data released on Wednesday showed. The Consumer Price Index climbed 5.4 percent in September from a year earlier, faster than its 5.3 percent increase through August. From August to September, the index rose 0.4 percent, also above expectations.Housing prices rose, and food — especially meat and eggs — cost consumers more. When volatile food and fuel prices are stripped out, inflation is still rapid, at 4 percent in the year through last month.Fed officials have repeatedly said they expect price gains to moderate as the economy gets back to normal, but they have stuck an increasingly wary tone as inflation has been slow to moderate.“I believe, as do most of my colleagues, that the risks to inflation are to the upside, and I continue to be attuned and attentive to underlying inflation trends,” Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, said during a speech Tuesday.Among the causes for concern: Inflation expectations seem to be picking up, at least by some measures.The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations showed this week that medium-term inflation expectations — those for three years ahead — climbed to 4.2 percent in September from 4 percent in August. That is the highest level since the series started in 2013. Short-term expectations jumped to 5.3 percent, also a new high. More

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    Inflation Expectations Climb, Dogging Federal Reserve Officials

    A key measure of inflation expectations released on Tuesday showed continued acceleration, a survey that came as Richard H. Clarida, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair, indicated that central bankers were alert to the risk of high inflation.The combination underscored that the threat of a longer period of rising prices has become more pronounced.In remarks prepared for the Institute of International Finance’s annual meeting, Mr. Clarida said he believed that the “unwelcome” jump in inflation this year, “once these relative price adjustments are complete and bottlenecks have unclogged, will in the end prove to be largely transitory.”“That said, I believe, as do most of my colleagues, that the risks to inflation are to the upside, and I continue to be attuned and attentive to underlying inflation trends,” he added, “in particular measures of inflation expectations.”Fed officials received bad news on inflation expectations Tuesday morning. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations showed that medium-term inflation expectations — those for three years ahead — climbed to 4.2 percent in September from 4 percent in August. That is the highest since the series started in 2013. Short-term expectations jumped to 5.3 percent, also a new high.Central bankers have said for months that they expect this year’s rapid inflation to fade as consumers and businesses get back to normal because it is the product of surging demand when supply is struggling to catch up thanks to factory shutdowns and shipping bottlenecks. But it has become increasingly clear that the adjustment will be measured in quarters and years rather than weeks and months, and policymakers have increasingly braced for the possibility that quick price gains could last considerably longer than they had first anticipated.Even so, Mr. Clarida and his colleagues at the Fed are moving only gradually to remove their support from the economy, cognizant that millions of jobs are still missing compared with before the pandemic. The Fed signaled in its latest policy decision that it would soon begin to taper its large monthly asset purchases, which it has been using to keep many types of borrowing cheap.Mr. Clarida reiterated that belief on Tuesday, saying Fed officials “generally view that, so long as the recovery remains on track, a gradual tapering of our asset purchases that concludes around the middle of next year may soon be warranted.” But even once that process gets going, interest rates are expected to remain near zero for months or even years.Still, the Fed is staring down a challenging 2022, a year when it may have to decide whether it can keep rates near rock bottom while inflation is taking time to fade. Officials are still hoping price gains will slow to more normal levels, allowing them to be patient in removing policy support. More