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    Biden's Stimulus Is Stoking Inflation, Fed Analysis Suggests

    Inflation is likely getting a temporary boost from the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Biden administration ushered in early this year, new Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco research released on Monday suggested.The analysis may add fuel to a hot debate in Washington over whether the administration’s policies are contributing to a spike in prices. Critics of the government spending package that was signed into law in March, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, have said it was poorly targeted and risked overheating the economy. Supporters of the relief program have said it provided critical aid to workers and businesses still struggling through the pandemic.The new paper comes down somewhere in the middle, finding that the spending had some effect on inflation but suggesting that it is most likely to be temporary. The economists estimated that it would add 0.3 percentage points to the core Personal Consumption Expenditures inflation index in 2021 and “a bit more” than 0.2 percentage points in 2022. Core inflation strips out volatile items like food and fuel.While those numbers are significant, they are not what most people would consider “overheating” — the Fed aims for 2 percent inflation on average over time, and a few tenths of a percent here or there are not a reason for much alarm.But the result is only a rough estimate, one the researchers came up with to help inform an continuing political and economic debate.Both the Trump and Biden administrations signed trillions of dollars in virus relief spending into law. The packages included two bipartisan bills in 2020 that pumped more than $3 trillion into the economy, including direct checks to individuals and generous unemployment benefits. Another $1.9 trillion — called the American Rescue Plan — was passed this year by Democrats after they took control of both Congress and the White House.“The later timing and large size of the A.R.P. stirred debate about whether it is causing an overheating of the economy and fueling a sustained increase in inflation,” the San Francisco Fed researchers noted.The economists tried to answer that question by looking at how much spare capacity is in the economy using a labor market measure — the ratio of job openings to unemployment. The logic is that inflation tends to pick up when there is very little labor market slack, because businesses raise wages to attract workers and then raise prices to cover their climbing labor costs.Government stimulus can push up the number of job openings in the economy as it fuels demand while constraining the number of available workers because it gives would-be employees a financial cushion, allowing them to take their time as they search for a new job.Based on the package’s size and using historical evidence on how fiscal spending affects the labor market, the researchers found that the American Rescue Plan might raise the vacancy-to-unemployment ratio close to its historical peak in 1968, fueling some inflation — but that the price impact would be small and short-lived.U.S. Inflation & Supply Chain ProblemsCard 1 of 6Covid’s impact on supply continues. More

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    Rising Rents Stoke Inflation Data, a Concern for Washington

    Economic policymakers have said inflation will prove temporary, but rising rents may challenge that view and pressure Washington to react.Terrell McCallum, a private wealth adviser in Dallas, spends a lot of time thinking about markets and interest rates. He knows that the Federal Reserve targets 2 percent annual price increases on average, so it was a shock when he learned that his rent would increase a whopping 10 percent this year.“I can afford it, but it gets to the brink of financial burden,” said Mr. McCallum, 33. He and his wife have been saving up for their first home, but now that they are paying $1,830 for their apartment and fees, that will become more difficult. He tried to push back on the increase, but the company he rents from wouldn’t budge.“They said: ‘This is what the market is doing.’”Mr. McCallum’s experience is echoing across America, as rents shoot higher after a brief pandemic slump, burdening households and fueling overall inflation. That is bad news for the Federal Reserve, because it could make today’s uncomfortably rapid price gains last longer. It’s also problematic for the White House because it hits households right in their pocketbooks, diminishing well-being and fueling unhappiness among voters.The jump in rents stemmed from a frenzy in the market for owned homes. People tried to buy as the pandemic took hold in the United States, often searching for extra space, but found that houses were in short supply after years of under-building following the housing crisis. That dearth of properties has been exacerbated by work stoppages, supply shortages and labor constraints during the coronavirus era, all of which have kept developers from ramping up production to meet demand.As buyers bid up prices on single-family homes and condominiums, many people who would have otherwise moved toward homeownership found themselves unable to afford it, increasing demand for apartments and home leases. Rents have been further boosted by the large number of people searching for places with more space and home offices during the pandemic, and as millennials in their late 20s and early to mid-30s look for more autonomy.“People might be looking to move out and on their own after being stuck with roommates during the pandemic,” said Adam Ozimek, the chief economist at Upwork, an online freelancing marketplace. “There’s also a possibility that remote work is playing a role here.”Government stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits also helped people amass savings over the course of the pandemic, so they can afford to move. Personal savings as a share of disposable income popped during the crisis, and while the share has come down toward normal levels, it remains slightly elevated at 9.4 percent, compared with about 8 percent just before the pandemic.The combination of factors seems to have created a perfect storm that pushed the Consumer Price Index measure of rent up 0.5 percent just between August and September, the fastest pace in about 20 years.That’s a concern for the Fed, because housing prices tend to move slowly and once they go up, they tend to stay up for a while. Rent data also feed into what is called “owners’ equivalent rent” — which tries to put a price on how much owners would pay for housing if they hadn’t bought a home. Together, housing measures make up about a third of the overall Consumer Price Index.Overall consumer prices have jumped sharply in 2021, climbing 5.4 percent in September from the prior year. Fed officials have been hoping and betting that the move is temporary, but they are watching housing measures carefully as a risk to that outlook.“Many participants pointed out that the owners’ equivalent rent component of price indexes should be monitored carefully, as rising home prices could lead to upward pressure on rents,” minutes from the Fed’s September meeting, released Wednesday, said.Rent is less critical to the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the one it officially targets when it shoots for 2 percent annual inflation on average, than it is to the C.P.I. But it is a big part of people’s experience with prices, so it could help shape their expectations about future cost increases.Those expectations matter a lot to the Fed. If consumers come to anticipate faster inflation, they may begin to demand higher wages to cover their rising expenses. As businesses lift prices to cover rising costs, they could set off an upward spiral. Already, some key measures of inflation outlooks — notably the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations — have jumped higher.The Fed is already preparing to start slowing the large bond purchases it has been making during the pandemic to keep longer-term interest rates low and money flowing around the economy. If inflation stays high, the Fed may also come under pressure to raise its policy interest rate, its more traditional and more powerful tool. That might slow mortgage lending, cool the housing market and weigh down inflation.An apartment building in New York. The national median rent increased by 16.4 percent since January.Karsten Moran for The New York TimesBut doing that would come at a big cost, slowing the labor market when there are 5 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. So for now, Fed officials are getting themselves into a position where they can be nimble without signaling that they’re poised to raised rates.White House officials are also wrestling with their options for easing housing price pressures. President Biden’s economic agenda includes measures that would build more houses and discourage zoning rules that keep new construction at bay.Such an intervention would take time — homes are not built overnight. And in the meantime, rents will almost certainly continue moving in the inflation data, which reflect rising housing costs at a long delay. More up-to-date measures of rental pricing pressure produced by Apartment List and Zillow have shown costs climbing in recent months, though many measures of rent and new leases have calmed down somewhat after a red-hot summer.The national median rent has increased 16.4 percent since January, Apartment List said in its September rental report, with monthly growth slowing slightly from its July peak.“This is still very strong by historical standards — we’re in off season,” said Igor Popov, chief economist at Apartment List. “It’s a racecar slowing down ahead of a turn, but it’s still going faster than we ever have in our lives.”Whether rent growth speeds up or slows next year may hinge on whether the government support that has given households the financial ability to afford housing gives way to a strong job market.“There’s room to run, for sure,” based on demographics alone, Mr. Ozimek said. “The question is whether the economy is going to go into full employment, or whether there’s a slowdown.”Rents could heat up as big cities including New York and Los Angeles rebound from the pandemic, said Daryl Fairweather, chief economist of Redfin. While smaller cities’ rental markets have been hot for months, the median rent in Manhattan climbed for the first time since the start of the pandemic in September, data from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman showed.The recovery in the New York area as a whole has been uneven as some families have moved to the city, bidding up prices, while others are struggling to pay, said Jay Martin, executive director of the Community Housing Improvement Program, which represents landlords of mostly rent-stabilized housing.“You have bidding wars for one unit, and then a renter who can’t pay,” he said. “A tale of two cities is happening within the same building.”Drew Hamrick, the senior vice president of the Colorado Apartment Association, a landlord group, said the rise in rents is not driven by landlords but by market factors.“Landlords don’t really set the price, consumers set the price,” he said. “It’s musical chairs.”Even if there is a pullback in rents next year, today’s suddenly higher housing costs could make for a painful adjustment period. Higher rent costs can reverberate through people’s lives and force tough decisions.Luke Martinez, a 27-year-old in Greenville, a town in East Texas, is contemplating buying a trailer and setting his family up on an R.V. lot after learning that he is losing the three-bedroom house he has been renting for about $1,000 per month since 2016.“It’s insane the amount of rent, even in this little Podunk town,” Mr. Martinez said.He’s looking at paying up to $1,500 per month for a new place, which will be tough. After getting laid off at the start of the pandemic, he had been living partly on savings — padded by an insurance payout after his car was stolen and totaled. He returned to working in automotive repair only this week. His wife had been working the front desk at a hotel until two months ago, but she is now home-schooling their 8-year-old.If they end up renting at the higher price, they will most likely afford it by forgoing a new car.“It’s pretty much just scraping by,” he said of his lifestyle. 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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    September Consumer Price Index: Inflation Rises

    A key reading of consumer prices jumped more than expected last month, data released on Wednesday showed, raising the stakes for the White House and Federal Reserve as they continue to wager that rapid inflation will cool as the economy returns to normal.The Consumer Price Index climbed 5.4 percent in September when compared with the prior year, more than expected in a Bloomberg survey of economists and faster than its 5.3 percent increase through August. From August to September, the index rose 0.4 percent, also above expectations.The gains came as housing prices firmed, and as food — especially meat and eggs — cost consumers more. Stripping out volatile food and fuel, inflation is still rapid, at 4 percent in the year through last month.Monthly gains have slowed from their breakneck pace earlier this year — they popped as much as 0.9 percent this summer — but they remain abnormally rapid. And price pressures have not been fading as rapidly as policymakers had hoped.

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    Change in monthly Consumer Price Index from a year ago
    Source: Bureau of Labor StatisticsBy The New York TimesInflation jumped early in 2021 as prices for airfares, restaurant meals and apparel recovered after slumping as the economy locked down during the depths of the pandemic. That was expected. But more recently, prices have continued to climb as supply shortages mean businesses can’t keep up with fast-rising demand. Factory shutdowns, clogged shipping routes and labor shortages at ports and along trucking lines have combined to make goods difficult to produce and transport.The snarls show no obvious signs of easing, and while Fed officials still think inflation will fade, they are increasingly concerned that supply disruptions could last long enough to prompt consumers and businesses to expect higher prices. If people believe that their lifestyles will cost more, they may demand higher compensation — and as employers lift pay, they may charge more for their goods to cover the costs, setting off an upward spiral.Already, companies are raising wages to lure back employees who left the job market during the pandemic and have yet to return, and landlords are raising rents rapidly. Both factors could feed into inflation in the months ahead — and unlike pandemic-tied quirks that should eventually resolve themselves, higher wages and housing costs could become a more persistent source of price pressures.Fed officials have signaled that they would use the central bank’s policies to control inflation if it proves persistent — but they would prefer to leave borrowing costs at low levels until the job market is more fully healed. Those potentially conflicting goals could set the stage for a tense 2022.Wall Street is watching every fresh inflation data print closely, because higher rates from the Fed could dent growth and stock prices.And the White House is under pressure to come up with whatever fixes it can. Later on Wednesday, President Biden is expected to address the supply-chain problems — which are weighing on his approval ratings as they push prices higher. 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

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    Economic and Earnings Concerns Begin to Weigh on Stocks

    After having few cares about the markets all year, investors are getting nervous as the Fed signals that harsher policies are on the way.Wall Street’s imperviousness to bad news, which enabled stocks to double in value from their pandemic panic lows, may be starting to crack.When the Federal Reserve signaled in September that it would soon tighten monetary policy by curtailing asset purchases, the stock market took it well, but not for long. The S&P 500 rose modestly for a few days before reversing course, pushing the index more than 5 percent below the high it set earlier in the month, which amounted to its biggest drop for the year.Despite that setback, the market managed to eke out a 0.2 percent gain for the third quarter.A stingier Fed is not the market’s only concern. Inflation, dismissed until recently by the Fed as a transitory artifact of the pandemic, is coming to be seen as more persistent as the prices of goods, services and labor increase. What is being acknowledged as transitory, though, is the jolt to economic growth and corporate profits provided by several trillion dollars of added spending by Congress.With a number of threats to prosperity becoming harder to ignore, many investment advisers have become less enthusiastic about stocks. They are revising return expectations down and recommending exposure only to narrow niches.“We’re not bullish today at all,” said David Giroux, head of investment strategy at T. Rowe Price. “What really drives the market is earnings growth,” he said. “We can’t repeat some of the things we’ve done this year. Earnings growth may slow in ’22, maybe dramatically.”After being a colossal boon for the economy, fiscal stimulus — in the form of enormous federal spending — may now prove to be three problems for the stock market in one. Government expenditure focused on the pandemic that boosted growth is ebbing. There is a broad consensus that taxes will rise soon to help pay for that spending. And, because many people took direct stimulus payments and invested them in the stock market, stocks ran up faster than they would otherwise.The positive effects of so much stimulus may have run their course, as domestic stock funds tracked by Morningstar lost 0.6 percent in the third quarter, with portfolios that focus on financial services among the few clear winners.The SPDR S&P 500 E.T.F. Trust, which tracks the index and is the largest exchange-traded fund, returned 0.6 percent in the quarter, beating the average actively managed mutual fund.The very fact that many investors until lately have seemed untroubled by the perils facing the economy is what some find troubling.“There is complacency in a lot of things,” said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management. He enumerated some of his worries: “‘Inflation is temporary.’ Maybe. Maybe not. Six months ago, consumption was booming. People had money and time. Now they have less money and less time. Earnings momentum has peaked, clearly, relative to six months ago. I’m concerned the market isn’t pricing in deterioration in the economic outlook.”By some measures, stocks are as expensive as at almost any time in history. The S&P 500 trades at about 34 times the last 12 months of earnings. Sarah Ketterer, chief executive of Causeway Capital Management, worries that corporate profits face numerous headwinds and that their impact on stocks could be especially high with valuations so rich.“Inflation is up, economic growth is down,” she said. “The supply chain disruption phenomenon is global, creating cost increases and margin pressure.” Companies in many industries have reported trouble sourcing some commodities and important components of manufactured goods, such as semiconductors, hindering production and making what they do produce more expensive.Rising prices have sent interest rates in the bond market higher, driving down bond prices and keeping a lid on bond funds in the third quarter. The average one rose 0.2 percent, dragged down by a 2.9 percent decline in emerging-market portfolios.“I’m hard pressed to find an area of costs that haven’t gone up, and this may continue for some time,” Ms. Ketterer said. “No one knows how long it will take to unravel the tangled supply chain situation.”The situation seems most tangled in Asia, where many raw and intermediate materials originate. China has been the source of several worrying recent events, including power cuts that have impeded manufacturing, and financial instability at the China Evergrande Group, a giant, heavily indebted developer.Some specialists in Asian markets see little chance of Evergrande’s woes spilling over to the wider Chinese financial system, let alone beyond. Matthews Asia, a mutual fund manager, said in a note to investors that mortgage lending standards in China are fairly tight, with large down payments required and the packaging of loans into securities sold to investors minimal.“Evergrande’s problems are unlikely to cause systemic problems and the likelihood of this devolving into a global financial problem is minuscule,” Matthews’s analysts said. But they added that restrictions could be placed on the property sector in coming quarters.Saira Malik, head of equities at Nuveen, an asset manager, likewise does not expect Evergrande to become a global problem, but she cautions that it is not China’s only problem.“The government is focusing on social issues, and some of that is leading to moderation in the growth rate” of China’s economy, she said. While more expansive central bank policies would be helpful, she added, “we think China could get worse before it gets better.”Funds that focus on Chinese stocks got worse in the third quarter, sinking 13.8 percent. International stock funds in general lost 2.9 percent.As prices and risks in stock markets at home and abroad rise, the opportunities for strong, relatively safe gains shrink.Mr. Giroux said he is “buying what the market is concerned about in the short term,” such as stocks in managed care providers, which are trading at a discount to the market because earnings growth has been subdued.He said he would avoid smaller companies, as well as companies that have benefited from fiscal stimulus programs, including automakers, heavy industrial companies and semiconductor manufacturers.Ms. Malik, who said she is “moderately bullish” overall, prefers smaller companies and European stock markets. She also likes makers of office software, such as Salesforce and HubSpot, and high-quality consumer cyclicals like Nike.Mr. Paolini also favors European stocks.“The case for Europe is quite solid,” he said. “Vaccination rates are high; the Covid story is over,” yet government stimulus continues across the region, so “they don’t have the same fiscal cliff as in the U.S. and U.K.”His other recommendations include financial stocks, which tend to benefit from higher interest rates, and drug makers.Ms. Ketterer thinks there is more potential for pandemic recovery stocks to appreciate. In particular, she expects Rolls-Royce, which makes jet engines, to benefit from an operational restructuring, and Air Canada, which cut costs during the pandemic and has a strong balance sheet and little competition, to do well as travel picks up.Ms. Ketterer remains resolute about trying to pick winners when there may not be many winners to pick.“What do we do?” she said. “We’re not going to hide. We don’t want to be in cash, and we don’t want to be in bonds if rates are rising.”Mr. Giroux said he doesn’t care much for bonds or cash — money-market funds — right now, either. He favors bank loans, floating-rate securities created by bundling loans that banks have made to corporate customers. They yield close to 4 percent, and that could increase if market interest rates rise. Default risk is mitigated because bank loans have a high place in corporate capital structures.The troubles in the stock market lately are barely a blip when viewed on a chart of the phenomenal last 18 months, so a single-digit percent return may seem meager. But it may start to look generous if the time has arrived for investors to learn to live with less.“The risk profile for equities over the next three to five years is not as good as it was a year ago because valuations are high, sentiment is good and earnings growth is likely to slow,” Mr. Giroux said. “We pull back on risk assets when things feel pretty good, and right now things feel pretty good.” More

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    Fed’s Brainard Signals Climate Change Guidance May Be Coming for Big Banks

    Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, on Thursday offered the clearest signal yet that America’s central bank is going to begin seriously assessing big banks’ exposure to climate-related financial risks.Ms. Brainard said the Fed was developing climate-related scenarios for use in banks’ safety checkups, which are often called stress tests. She also endorsed the use of supervisory guidance — the Fed’s recommendations to banks — to encourage financial institutions to curb their exposures.“I anticipate it will be helpful to provide supervisory guidance for large banking institutions in their efforts to appropriately measure, monitor, and manage material climate-related risks, following the lead of a number of other countries,” Ms. Brainard said in remarks prepared for a Fed research conference.Ms. Brainard said the Fed is also assessing climate-related risks from a broader perspective — trying to game out what melting ice caps and rampant wildfires could mean for the financial system as a whole.“We are developing scenario analysis to model the possible financial risks associated with climate change and assess the resilience of individual financial institutions and the financial system to these risks,” she said.The fact that it is developing climate scenarios puts the Fed more in line with its global counterparts, including the European Central Bank and the Bank of England, that have been examining what climate-related risks could mean for the banking sector. In addition, the Fed and its leader, Jerome H. Powell, have faced backlash for moving slowly toward a more concerted climate push.Mr. Powell had also suggested that the Fed would test banks’ exposure to climate problems, though his remarks, to lawmakers during testimony last week, were not as definitive or as detailed as Ms. Brainard’s. He explained that the Fed’s goal was to make sure regulated banks could manage any of the risks that threats like climate change posed.“Scenario analysis is almost certainly going to be one of the principal tools for doing exactly that,” Mr. Powell said.The central bank oversees the nation’s largest banks, including institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. More

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    Fed Chair Jerome Powell Faces Reappointment Amid Tumult

    Mr. Powell is facing down progressive pushback and an ethics scandal as the White House considers his future.As Jerome H. Powell’s term as the chair of the Federal Reserve nears its expiration, President Biden’s decision over whether to keep him in the job has grown more complicated amid Senator Elizabeth Warren’s vocal opposition to his leadership and an ethics scandal that has engulfed his central bank.Mr. Powell, whose four-year term as chair expires early next year, continues to have a good chance of being reappointed because he has earned respect within the White House for his aggressive use of the Fed’s tools in the wake of the pandemic recession, people familiar with the administration’s internal discussions said.But the decision and the timing of an announcement remain subject to an unusually high level of uncertainty, even for a top economic appointment. The White House will most likely announce Mr. Biden’s choice in the coming weeks, but that, too, is tenuous.The administration is preoccupied with other major priorities, including passing spending legislation and lifting the nation’s debt limit. But the uncertainty also reflects growing complications around Mr. Powell’s renomination. Ms. Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, has blasted his track record on big bank regulation and last week called him a “dangerous man” to lead the central bank.She has also taken aim at Mr. Powell for not preventing top Fed officials from trading securities in 2020, a year in which the central bank rescued markets, potentially giving the officials privileged information. Two regional presidents traded for their own profit in assets that the Fed’s actions could have influenced, according to recent disclosures. And Richard H. Clarida, the Fed’s vice chair, moved money from bond funds into stock funds in late February 2020, just before the Fed hinted that it would rescue markets and the economy. “It is not clear why Chair Powell did not takes steps to prevent these activities,” Ms. Warren said during a Senate floor speech on Tuesday, after sending a letter on Monday calling for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether the transactions amounted to insider trading. “The responsibility to safeguard the integrity of the Federal Reserve rests squarely with him.”Asked on Tuesday whether he had confidence in Mr. Powell, the president said he did but that he was still catching up on events.The White House’s decision over Mr. Powell’s future is pending at a critical moment for the U.S. economy. Millions of jobs are still missing compared with before the pandemic, and inflation has jumped higher as strong demand clashes with supply chain disruptions, presenting dueling challenges for the Fed chair to navigate. The Fed’s next leader will also shape its involvement in climate finance policy, a possible central bank digital currency and the response to the central bank’s ethics dilemma.“This is starting to feel like an incredibly consequential time for the Fed,” said Dennis Kelleher, the chief executive of Better Markets, a group that has been critical of the Fed’s deregulatory moves in recent years and has criticized it for insufficient ethical oversight.The administration is under pressure to make a prompt decision, in part because the Fed’s seven-person Board of Governors in Washington will soon face a spate of openings. One governor role is already open. Mr. Clarida’s term ends early next year, leaving another vacancy, and Randal K. Quarles’s term as the board’s vice chair for supervision will expire next week, although his term as a governor runs through 2032.By announcing key picks soon, the Biden administration could ensure that someone was ready to step into Mr. Quarles’s leadership role. And nominating several officials at once could give the president a chance to show that he is heeding the concerns of Democrats in Congress, who want to see more diversity at the Fed and officials who favor tougher bank regulation.But the ethics scandal threatens to complicate the picks.Recent financial disclosures showed that Robert S. Kaplan at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas traded millions of dollars in individual stocks last year, and that Eric S. Rosengren at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston traded real estate-tied securities even as he warned publicly about problems in that sector. The trades have drawn criticism because they occurred during a year in which the Fed hugely influenced a wide range of financial markets.Both men resigned from their roles as regional presidents amid the controversy, though Mr. Rosengren said he was leaving for health reasons.Attention has now turned to Mr. Clarida. All of his trades were in broad funds, not individual securities, and have been public since May, but have drawn attention amid the current reckoning. He sold a stake in a bond fund totaling at least $1 million and moved that money into stock funds on Feb. 27, 2020. The transaction gave him more exposure to stocks shortly before the Fed rolled out policies that goosed such investments.The Fed has said Mr. Clarida’s trades were part of a planned portfolio rebalancing, but declined to specify when the planning happened.Mr. Powell kicked off an internal ethics review last month. A Fed spokesperson said on Monday that an independent government watchdog would carry out an investigation into whether senior officials broke relevant ethics rules or laws.But some progressives have seized on the problems to bolster their case that Mr. Powell should not be reappointed. Jeff Hauser, the founder and executive director of the Revolving Door Project, which has urged Mr. Biden to keep corporate influence out of his administration, has pointed out that the Fed chair himself moved money around last year, listing 26 transactions, albeit all in broad-based funds. He also noted that Lael Brainard, a Fed governor and a longtime favorite to replace Mr. Powell if he is not reappointed, did not report any transactions year.“If you’re trying to go above and beyond, and be beyond reproach, not trading is the better option,” Mr. Hauser said.Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether top Fed officials engaged in insider trading in 2020.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesIt is not clear how much the blowback will ultimately fall on Mr. Powell. During his testimony to a Senate committee last week, lawmakers asked him about the ethics issues without explicitly blaming him for them.The trades were not historically abnormal. Mr. Kaplan transacted in stocks throughout his tenure, including when Mr. Powell’s predecessor, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, led the central bank. Ms. Yellen’s vice chair, Stanley Fischer, bought and sold individual stocks, his 2017 disclosures showed. Ms. Brainard herself has in the past made broad-based transactions. It was the Fed’s more expansive role in 2020 that spurred the backlash.Agencies often need a “wake-up call” to notice evolving problems with their oversight rules, said Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and an ethics adviser in President Barack Obama’s White House.“My own view is that Chair Powell is pivoting briskly to address the weaknesses in the Fed’s ethics system,” he said. Ms. Warren cited regulation, not ethics issues, upon first announcing that she would not support Mr. Powell. Democrats have raised concerns for years about the deregulatory approach that the Fed has embraced under Mr. Quarles’s leadership. Mr. Powell has largely deferred to his vice chair for supervision as the central bank made bank stress tests more transparent and enabled big banks to become more intertwined with venture capital.Critics say reappointing Mr. Powell amounts to retaining that more hands-off regulatory approach. And some progressive groups suggest that if Mr. Powell stays in place, Mr. Quarles will feel emboldened to stick around: He has hinted that he might stay on as a Fed governor once his leadership term ends.That would mean four of seven Fed Board officials — a majority — would remain Republican-appointed. Two other governors — Michelle W. Bowman and Christopher J. Waller — were nominated by President Donald J. Trump.During Mr. Powell’s Senate testimony last week, Ms. Warren said renominating him as chair meant “gambling that, for the next five years, a Republican majority at the Federal Reserve, with a Republican chair who has regularly voted to deregulate Wall Street, won’t drive this economy over a financial cliff again.”Even without Ms. Warren’s approval, Mr. Powell would most likely draw enough support to clear the Senate Banking Committee, the first step before the full Senate could vote on his nomination, because of his continued backing from the committee’s Republicans. But having a powerful Democratic opponent whose support the administration needs on other legislative priorities is not helpful.The Fed chair does have some powerful allies in the administration, including Ms. Yellen, the Treasury secretary. But the decision rests with Mr. Biden.“I know he will talk to many people and consider a wide range of evidence and opinions,” Ms. Yellen said on CNBC on Tuesday. More