Fed’s Kashkari says don’t use rate hikes to fight bubbles

on May17

Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Mark Kauzlarich | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Neel Kashkari, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari on Wednesday warned against using
interest-rate hikes to address unwanted asset bubbles, saying that bubbles are hard to identify and such hikes would likely do more harm than good.

Kashkari is a voting member this year on the U.S. central bank’s policy committee, and in March was the lone dissenter on a Fed vote to raise rates for the third time since the Great Recession. He has previously said he opposed the rate hike because he felt keeping rates low would result in more jobs for Americans who want to work.

Some Fed officials have worried that keeping rates too low for too long could create asset bubbles that could set the U.S. economy up for another recession. But the main reason Fed chair Janet Yellen and others have given for raising rates is not to tamp down bubbles, but to keep a now nearly fully employed economy from going into overdrive.

Kashkari’s latest essay argues that keeping a sharp eye out for potential bubbles and using supervisory powers to protect banks from failures are better options than raising rates.

“Given the challenges of identifying bubbles with any confidence and the costs of making a policy mistake, I believe the odds of circumstances ever making sense to use monetary policy to try to slow asset prices down are very low,” he wrote.

“I won’t say never but a whole lot of evidence would have to line up just right for it to be the prudent course of action.”

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