Dallas Fed’s Kaplan says he’d like to avoid cutting rates again in September, but has ‘open mind’

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan would like to avoid additional stimulus but is keeping an “open mind.” 

“I’d like to avoid having to take further action but I think I’m going to have an open mind about taking action over the next number of months if we need to,” Kaplan told CNBC’s Steve Liesman on Thursday from the Federal Reserve’s economic policy symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Kaplan said the Fed’s GDP forecast of 2% growth this year has risks to the “downside.” 

“Even though the consumer is very strong and a key underpinning to the economy, manufacturing sector is weak and probably weakening and global growth decelerating is probably finding its way to seep into the U.S. economy,” said Kaplan.

U.S. manufacturer growth slowed to the lowest level in almost 10 years in August, according to data released Thursday. The U.S. manufacturing PMI (purchasing managers’ index) was 49.9 in August, down from 50.4 in July and below the neutral 50.0 threshold for the first time since September 2009, according to IHS Markit. 

Holding up is the consumer economy, the biggest part of the economy. In the second-quarter, personal consumption expenditures rose 4.3%, the best performance in six quarters. 

“As long as the consumer stays strong we are going to have solid growth,” said Kaplan. 

Kaplan also addressed concerns about the inverted yield curve. He said he is less “obsessed” with the little movements in the curves “back and forth.” 

“I’m more focused on the fact that the whole curve has moved down over the last three and a half months and the Fed funds rate at two to two and a quarter is now above every rate along the curve which to me is a bit of a reality check that says it’s possible our monetary policy stays a little tighter than I would have thought three or four months ago,” he said. 

Earlier on Thursday, Kansas City Fed President Esther George said the July rate cut “wasn’t required ” and Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said he doesn’t see the case for additional stimulus.

Following their comments, the bond market’s main yield curve inverted briefly for the third time in less than two weeks on concern that maybe the Fed wouldn’t do enough to save the economy from a recession.

Kaplan is a nonvoting member this year of the Fed’s Open Market Committee.

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