Washington, July 25 Staff economists at the Federal Reserve expect a quarter-point US interest rate increase this year, according to forecasts the Fed mistakenly published on its website in a gaffe that drew criticism about its ability to keep secrets. The rate forecast was included with a series of bearish projections on US economic growth and inflation that were presented to policymakers at their June 16 to 17 meet. The disclosure of the sensitive information is the latest blow to the Fed’s reputation for secrecy around policy deliberations. Later on Friday evening, the Fed said the inadvertently released document was not the correct document. It provided a new table showing slightly lower outlooks for gross domestic product and inflation in 2015, as well as other revisions. Federal prosecutors are currently probing an alleged leak at the Fed of market-sensitive information to a private financial newsletter in 2012. “It regrettably appears once again that proper internal controls are not in place to safeguard confidential Federal Reserve information,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a Republican who chairs the House Financial Services Committee and is pressing Fed Chair Janet Yellen for documents regarding the 2012 leak. The Fed said in a statement that the forecasts were ‘inadvertently’ included in a computer file posted to its website on June 29. Fed officials said the disclosure was due to procedural errors at a staff level and that the mistake was discovered on Tuesday this week. The matter has been referred to the Fed’s inspector general. The forecasts do not represent the views of the central bankers who set interest rate policy. Those policymakers, many based outside of Washington in regional Fed branches, create their own forecasts, the most recent of which were released on June 17. But Board of Governors’ staff views are sensitive and influential enough that the Fed normally releases them about five years after they were made. In the projections prepared in June, and in the revised table released on Friday, the staff expected policymakers would raise their benchmark interest rate, known as the Fed funds rate, enough for it to average 0.35 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. That implies one quarter-point hike this year, as the Fed funds rate is currently hovering around 0.13 per cent. Analysts at JPMorgan and Barclays said this suggested the staff expected a rate hike before a scheduled December 15 to 16 policy meeting. The Fed also has policy meetings scheduled for July 28 to 29, September 16 to 17, and October 27 to 28. All but two of the Fed’s 17 policymakers said last month they think rates should rise in 2015. They were divided between whether it would be best to raise rates once or twice this year. The staff views were less optimistic about the economy than several key policymaker forecasts.
Federal Reserve inadvertently publishes staff forecast for 2015 rate hike
Published: 10:23 am Jul 26, 2015