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San Francisco Fed: Weak Inflation Not the Conundrum Many Believe

Wall Street Journal (07/22/15) Michael Derby

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s failure to get inflation back up to desired levels for nearly three years is not the problem many people believe it to be, according to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. U.S. inflation, by the Fed’s preferred measure, has run under its 2% target for more than three years. In a note published Monday, bank economist Kevin Lansing wrote this “does not yet signal a statistically significant departure from the target after accounting for the ever-present volatility of monthly inflation readings.” Lansing concluded that the recent persistence of weak inflation has primarily reflected the collapse in oil prices.

Most Fed officials have said they expect to start raising short-term interest rates from near zero this year. But they also have said liftoff won’t occur until they are confident inflation will rise to their target. The presidents of the San Francisco and New York Fed regional Fed banks have said that while they are confident inflation will rise, they will need to see tangible evidence it will happen before signing off on boosting borrowing costs.