Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet L. Yellen told lawmakers Thursday that the economy would continue to grow “at a moderate pace” over “the next couple of years” and the market’s reaction to Donald Trump’s election reflects expectations that inflation would rise.
Yellen also said she will finish out her term, which ends in about 14 months.
Testifying before the Joint Economic Committee, Yellen indicated that prospects for the Federal Open Market Committee’s widely expected increase of the federal funds rate, now at 0.5 percent, at its Dec. 14 meeting had not been dimmed by the Nov. 8 election. Yellen was responding to committee Chairman Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., who asked if the results of the election might fall into the category of events that might cause the Fed to step back from plans to raise interest rates.
The committee’s ranking member, Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, suggested that the “thunderbolt on Nov. 8” raised questions of how the Fed might “steer through the days ahead.”
Comments from Coats and Maloney framed the debate that will likely embroil Congress next year, ranging from calls for a stimulus package, higher interest rates, increased congressional oversight of the Fed and efforts to repeal the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul.
Following the election, yields on long-term U.S. Treasury bonds rose by 0.4 percentage points and the dollar strengthened by 3.5 percent.
Those changes indicate that markets are anticipating “that you will ultimately choose a fiscal package” as part of an expansionary policy while maintaining close to maximum employment, she said.
“Such a package could have inflationary consequences,” Yellen said. And there is room for a rise in inflation, since the government’s target rate is 2 percent a year and core inflation has recently hovered at about 1.75 percent.
Coats had said he agreed with a “growing consensus” that low interest rates were not enough to stimulate the economy, that tax and regulatory reforms, along with an economic stimulus, “are necessary ingredients” to stimulate higher economic growth.
Maloney noted that President-elect Trump has called for big tax cuts that would stimulate the economy, but in the long run would run up the deficit. She also said his call for the “mass deportation” of immigrants would negatively impact labor markets.
Yellen and the Fed had been criticized by candidate Trump, particularly when the Federal Open Market Committee decided against raising rates at its Nov. 2 meeting, just six days before the election.
Asked if she would fill out her four-year term as Fed Chair, Yellen said she would stay in the position until the end of her term in February 2018.
“I was confirmed by the Senate to a four-year term,” she said. “It is fully my intention to fill out that term.”