Federal Reserve Continues Gradual Rates Hike Despite Potential Trade Fallout

08 July, 2018, 13:12 | Author: Eric Barnett
  • Businesses hit pause on spending amid trade uncertainty: Fed minutes

The Federal Reserve Building stands in Washington April 3, 2012.

Minutes of the Fed's March meeting also showed that officials saw trade rifts between the U.S. and China as risks to the economy's growth.

"[Some] indicated that plans for capital spending had been scaled back or postponed as a result of uncertainty over trade policy".

The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Meeting three weeks ago, Fed officials reported that their contacts in the steel and aluminum industries - both meant to be beneficiaries of the Trump administration's policies - expected higher prices as a result of the dispute "but had not planned any new investments to increase capacity".

Federal Reserve officials last month said they expect to keep raising interest rates and suggested that by next year, they could be high enough that they could start slowing growth, according to minutes of their discussion released Thursday. He said the following week that, in principle, " changes in trade policy could cause us to have to question the outlook", adding that business contacts were telling the Fed it might be a reason to delay investment or hiring.

Concerns about the Trump administration's trade actions do not, however, overshadow overall positive news about the state of the USA economy, according to the minutes. Canada and Mexico have already slapped new taxes on USA goods, while the US and China are to levy duties on each other's products worth some $34 billion.


Fed policymakers also had a wide-ranging discussion on whether the recently slim spread between short- and long-term interest rates might be a sign of an impending recession.

"A number of participants thought it would be important to continue to monitor the slope of the yield curve", according to the minutes.

Staffers who presented the new gauge, "noted that this measure may be less affected by numerous factors that have contributed to the flattening of the yield curve, such as depressed term premiums at longer horizons".

It seems unlikely that the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee considered the yield curve dynamics and the newly developed barometer as clear pointers to a recession in the making.

Policymakers generally agreed recent economic data showed a strong economy that was evolving in line with their expectations.

Nonetheless, some committee members were wary of the economic outlook in Europe and several emerging markets, which could affect the U.S.

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