HOUSTON (AP) — The vice chair of the Federal Reserve said Tuesday that the recent slump in financial markets could be a sign the global economy is slowing, which would affect U.S. growth.
But Stanley Fischer said similar market gyrations have had little impact in the past on the overall economy, so it’s too early to tell at this point.
Fisher made the comments in a speech scheduled for delivery at a global energy conference in Houston.
The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate from record lows in December and signaled the possibility of four more hikes in 2016. But roiling financial markets and indications of global weakness have cast doubt on the outlook for more rate increases.
Global markets have been volatile this year, moved by factors including concern about slowing economic growth in China and falling oil prices.
“If the recent financial market developments lead to a sustained tightening of financial conditions, they could signal a slowing in the global economy that could affect growth and inflation in the United States,” Fischer said. “But we have seen similar periods of volatility in recent years — including in the second half of 2011 — that have left little visible imprint on the economy, and it is still early to judge the ramifications of the increased market volatility of the first seven weeks of 2016.”
Fischer said data since the December rate hike suggest that the U.S. labor market has kept improving although job gains slowed in January. Spending indicators for January “point to a pickup in economic growth this quarter,” he added.
His remarks echoed those of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who testified to Congress two weeks ago that global financial developments could cause the U.S. economy to slow, but that the Fed would be careful not to jump to premature conclusions about the U.S. economy or interest rates.
Falling oil prices have tamped down inflation for more than a year, but the Fed thinks those declines and the strengthening of the dollar will fade in coming months, pushing inflation back to around the central bank’s target rate of 2 percent.
Yellen said this month that cheaper oil prices might contribute to better-than-expected economic growth. She said they have helped support household spending but also caused oil companies to slash jobs and cut capital spending.
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