Excerpts from the Chair Janet L. Yellen Testimony Before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate:
Since my last appearance before this Committee in February, the economy has made further progress toward the Federal Reserve's objective of maximum employment. And while inflation has continued to run below our 2 percent objective, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) expects inflation to rise to that level over the medium term. However, the pace of improvement in the labor market appears to have slowed more recently, suggesting that our cautious approach to adjusting monetary policy remains appropriate.
The Committee's actions reflect a careful assessment of the appropriate setting for monetary policy, taking into account continuing below-target inflation and the mixed readings on the labor market and economic growth seen this year. Proceeding cautiously in raising the federal funds rate will allow us to keep the monetary support to economic growth in place while we assess whether growth is returning to a moderate pace, whether the labor market will strengthen further, and whether inflation will continue to make progress toward our 2 percent objective. Another factor that supports taking a cautious approach in raising the federal funds rate is that the federal funds rate is still near its effective lower bound. If inflation were to remain persistently low or the labor market were to weaken, the Committee would have only limited room to reduce the target range for the federal funds rate. However, if the economy were to overheat and inflation seemed likely to move significantly or persistently above 2 percent, the FOMC could readily increase the target range for the federal funds rate.
The FOMC continues to anticipate that economic conditions will improve further and that the economy will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate. In addition, the Committee expects that the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below the levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run because headwinds--which include restraint on U.S. economic activity from economic and financial developments abroad, subdued household formation, and meager productivity growth--mean that the interest rate needed to keep the economy operating near its potential is low by historical standards. If these headwinds slowly fade over time, as the Committee expects, then gradual increases in the federal funds rate are likely to be needed. In line with that view, most FOMC participants, based on their projections prepared for the June meeting, anticipate that values for the federal funds rate of less than 1 percent at the end of this year and less than 2 percent at the end of next year will be consistent with their assessment of appropriate monetary policy.
Of course, the economic outlook is uncertain, so monetary policy is by no means on a preset course and FOMC participants' projections for the federal funds rate are not a predetermined plan for future policy. The actual path of the federal funds rate will depend on economic and financial developments and their implications for the outlook and associated risks. Stronger growth or a more rapid increase in inflation than the Committee currently anticipates would likely make it appropriate to raise the federal funds rate more quickly. Conversely, if the economy were to disappoint, a lower path of the federal funds rate would be appropriate. We are committed to our dual objectives, and we will adjust policy as appropriate to foster financial conditions consistent with their attainment over time.