The president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said Tuesday that further monetary easing would increase the already substantial risk of higher inflation in the U.S.
"I do not support the practice of offering forward policy guidance by saying economic conditions are likely to lead to low rates through some calendar date," said Charles Plosser, speaking at the University of Delaware's Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship. "Monetary policy should be contingent on the economic environment and not the calendar."
Plosser, among the most vocal of inflation hawks at the Fed, dissented from the January decision by the central bank's Federal Open Market Committee to hold interest rates near zero through at least late 2014. "The financial crisis has passed, however, and monetary policy should not continue to act as if the crisis was still with us," he said Tuesday.
"The problem is not just inflation risk down the road," Plosser said. "Prolonged efforts to hold interest rates near zero can lead to financial market distortions and the misallocation of resources."
The Philadelphia Fed chief, who doesn't vote on the FOMC this year, expects to "see stabilization but not much improvement in 2012" in the housing market. But he said "we should not seek, nor should we expect, housing and related sectors to return to those pre-recession highs."
Regarding the labor market, Plosser said he was "encouraged by the most recent employment reports" and expects the rate of U.S. joblessness to fall to 8 percent or less by the end of 2012.
However, risks from Europe and questions about U.S. fiscal policy are contributing "additional uncertainty to the economic landscape," which is likely to cause businesses and consumers to "postpone significant spending and hiring decisions."
Plosser expects to see "moderate" growth of around 3 percent in 2012 and 2013, "which is slightly above trend."
On Monday in Claremont, Calif., San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said the central bank should continue monetary expansion to boost the economy and that such action is vital to "keep the monetary policy throttle wide open."
"Aiming for zero inflation would be too low and inconsistent with our maximum employment mandate," said Williams, who is a FOMC voting member this year. "A small amount of inflation can help grease the wheels of the labor market."
Williams expects inflation in 2012 and 2013 to be around 1.5 percent, below the FOMC's 2 percent target.
"Clearly, with unemployment at 8.3 percent, we are very far from maximum employment," Williams said.