St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said Sunday the U.S. Federal Reserve will hold President-elect Donald Trump to his word on preserving the central bank’s independence.
Bullard, who said last week he could see supporting a December rate hike, told the German business daily Handelsblatt the transition team has said “it wants to protect the independence of the Fed.”
"If inflation were at 15 percent like it was in the 1980s, there would perhaps be a reason to say that something isn't right and it has to be changed. But that is not the case today," the Fed policymaker said.
The comments come as the Fed is poised to raise interest rates in December, the first such action in a year.
Chair Janet Yellen, whose term extends to 2024, testified last week before the Joint Economic Committee the economy has made progress toward maximum employment and price stability, meaning it is stable enough to digest a rate hike. Further, U.S. economic growth appears to be picking up as is inflation.
“I expect economic growth to continue at a moderate pace sufficient to generate some further strengthening in labor market conditions and a return of inflation to the committee's 2 percent objective over the next couple of years,” she said, warning a delay could result in the Fed having to act abruptly in the future and possibly torpedoing longer term goals.
“Holding the federal funds rate at its current level for too long could also encourage excessive risk-taking and ultimately undermine financial stability,” she said.
Kansas City Fed President Esther George said raising interest rates sooner rather than later could benefit the economy, but she stopped short of saying she would support a December hike. George dissented from the November minutes, saying the Federal Open Markets Committee should have raised rates 25 basis points at its last meeting.
Both George and Bullard are FOMC voting members. The committee now must assess how Trump’s policies will affect the economy and decide how to handle further rate hikes next year.
Bullard told CNBC some of Trump’s proposals could have a significant impact, but he expects changes to move slowly.
"Trade is something that enters into negotiations, it takes many years. It can have a big impact on the economy, but it would be many years out ... 10 years,” Bullard said.
"Same with immigration. Even a successful immigration reform ... would change the composition of the labor force over time. That would be something that would have possibly a big impact but over five to 10 years."