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Fed is data-dependent from here, NY Federal Reserve’s Williams says

NEW YORK — New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said Wednesday any changes in interest rates from here will depend on the incoming economic data but policy makers should be preemptive in taking steps to keep the expansion alive.

Williams also said the three interest rate cuts the Fed has delivered since July leave the US economy better positioned to withstand potential risks.

“We want to keep this Goldilocks economy going, not too hot, not too cold,” Williams said Wednesday at an event organized by the Wall Street Journal. “It’s a combination of responding both to what we’re seeing in the data but also looking ahead and seeing where is this economy likely to be next year and the year ahead.”

Fed officials cut interest rates last week by a quarter percentage point to a target range of 1.50% to 1.75%. Policy makers characterized the third rate reduction of the year as the last of the “insurance cuts” meant to bolster the ability of the US economy to withstand potential headwinds from a global slowdown, a manufacturing slump and a trade war with China.

Policy makers continue to point to the strong labor force as evidence that the US economy is in a good place. Fed Chair Jerome Powell and others said it would take a “material change” to the economic outlook for them to support further rate cuts.

Williams reiterated views expressed by other policy makers that there are risks to letting inflation get too low. He said he is concerned about the disinflationary pattern seen in Japan, where central bank officials have little wiggle room for stimulating economic growth.

“Having some inflation in the background, or 2% inflation, gives us more policy space to respond,” he said.

US consumers’ inflation expectations fell again in October, according to a survey released Tuesday by the New York Fed. The report showed that inflation expectations have dropped for most of this year, with the one-year inflation outlook reaching a new low for the survey, which was started in 2013.

Williams said he believes the Fed can achieve its target of 2% inflation and that officials should commit to “symmetric” inflation targeting, which allows inflation to run above the desired level half the time and below the target half the time. — Reuters

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