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Tuesday August 24, 2021 - 14:40:01 GMT -

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Putting Myself in FRB Chairman Powell's Shoes

The long-awaited speech at Jackson Hole on August 27 by Fed Chairman Powell is finally upon us.

One reason why this event is getting so much attention is that in the past Fed Chairmen have signaled policy changes in this speech. This is occurring under conditions, all things being equal, that would warrant the start of the bond tapering sometime this year.

So, rather than speculate as to what the speech might say, I decided to put  myself in Powell’s shoes  

While I would like to signal when the start the bond tapering process might begin, there is a new obstacle thrown in my way, the rising trajectory of covid cases caused by the delta variant. The resurgence of Covid infections amid a vaccine rollout that has met some resistance has created uncertainty in an economy that seemed to have clear sailing

On the other hand, there is a potential for some hope the current outbreak can be contained with the FDA giving formal approval to the Pfizer vaccine. In addition, booster shots are due to become available to the general public starting in late September.

So, wearing Powell’s shoes my feet are starting to feel tight as August 27 nears. I have to walk a tightrope between addressing tapering and concerns over the impact of the resurgent virus on the economy, especially as summer ends and schools reopen for the new year. I wish I could find a new pair of shoes that would make it easier to perform a balancing act.

In any case, if I was in Powell’s shoes, I would not send out any definitive signals, indicating future decisions would be both data and covid dependent. I would stick to the party line that the sharp rise in inflation is seen as transitory, suggesting the Fed can proceed at its own pace.

Now, stepping out of his shoes, markets have already started to adjust this week from a risk of a strong tapering signal to one that is filled with enough uncertainty to keep the trading community guessing. So, the surprise would be a definitive signal either way, which would see the greatest reaction. Otherwise, the risk on crowd would seem to be in control for now given the scaled back expectations for Powell’s speech.

I think I will switch to a pair of sneakers.  

Jay Meisler, co-founder

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