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Fed’s Williams does not expect economy to overheat due to fiscal aid

New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said on Friday he’s not worried the economy will overheat due to government overspending, adding that employment and inflation are far below levels that would prompt the U.S. central bank to dial back its own support.

“The economy has quite a ways to go to get back to maximum employment, and we have a ways to go to get back to our 2% inflation target, so I’m not really concerned about stimulus, about fiscal support right now being excessive or anything like that,” Williams said on CNBC.

“The economy has been in a very slow period due to the winter wave of COVID, spread of COVID, so right now I am in a wait-and-see mode and we are going to watch the data and see how the economy does and specifically focusing on the progress on our two goals and make the decisions that are appropriate to achieve those goals.”

His comments suggest the Fed will keep its foot to the monetary gas pedal even as the Biden administration pushes for a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package that critics, including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, say is liable to lit a fire under inflation.

Janet Yellen, who was Fed chief until early 2018 and is now Treasury secretary, says that’s a risk worth taking, given that millions of Americans are still unemployed.

Williams, who worked for Yellen when she ran the San Francisco Fed and is now a key advisor to Fed Chair Jerome Powell, sounded equally sanguine about the recent rise in Treasury yields and the values of a range of assets including stocks and homes.

Some analysts have warned of froth and risk-taking that could create risks for the financial system if allowed to continue.

“Very strong asset prices” fundamentally reflect “optimism among investors that the U.S. economy and the global economy is going to have a strong recovery and expansion, and expectations of low (interest) rates well off into the future,” Williams said.

But as for asset prices running “out of control,” “I don’t see, really, the evidence for that,” he said.

The Fed’s latest semi-annual monetary policy report, which was released earlier on Friday, pointed to downside risks for the financial system, including the potential for “sharp declines” in highly-valued commercial real estate and possible spillovers from financial vulnerabilities in emerging markets to the U.S. financial system and economy.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Ann Saphir, Editing by Franklin Paul and Paul Simao)

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