U.S. Federal Reserve Upgrades Economic Outlook

The Fed and the FOMC on Wednesday released the  minutes of the Committee meeting held on June 23-24. The minutes show officials upgraded their projections for the economy over the remainder of 2009 as well as 2010, but they warned that any recovery will be bumpy, especially for the labor market.

From Fed: Staff Economic Outlook:

In the forecast prepared for the June meeting, the staff revised upward its outlook for economic activity during the remainder of 2009 and for 2010. Consumer spending appeared to have stabilized since the start of the year, sales and starts of new homes were flattening out, and the recent declines in capital spending did not look as severe as those that had occurred around the turn of the year. Recent declines in payroll employment and industrial production, while still sizable, were smaller than those registered earlier in 2009. Household wealth was higher, corporate bond rates had fallen, the value of the dollar was lower, the outlook for foreign activity was better, and financial stress appeared to have eased somewhat more than had been anticipated in the staff forecast prepared for the prior FOMC meeting.

The projected boost to aggregate demand from these factors more than offset the negative effects of higher oil prices and mortgage rates. The staff projected that real GDP would decline at a substantially slower rate in the second quarter than it had in the first quarter and then increase in the second half of 2009, though less rapidly than potential output. The staff also revised up its projection for the increase in real GDP in 2010, [2.1%-3.3%, accelerating to 3.8%-4.6% in 2011] to a pace above the growth rate of potential GDP. As a consequence, the staff projected that the unemployment rate would rise further in 2009 but would edge down in 2010. Meanwhile, the staff forecast for inflation was marked up. Recent readings on core consumer prices had come in a bit higher than expected; in addition, the rise in energy prices, less-favorable import prices, and the absence of any downward movement in inflation expectations led the staff to raise its medium-term inflation outlook. Nonetheless, the low level of resource utilization was projected to result in an appreciable deceleration in core consumer prices through 2010.

Looking ahead to 2011 and 2012, the staff anticipated that financial markets and institutions would continue to recuperate, monetary policy would remain stimulative, fiscal stimulus would be fading, and inflation expectations would be relatively well anchored. Under such conditions, the staff projected that real GDP would expand at a rate well above that of its potential, that the unemployment rate would decline significantly, and that overall and core personal consumption expenditures inflation would stay low.

In their discussion of the economic situation and outlook, participants generally agreed that the information received since the April meeting indicated that the economic contraction was slowing and that the decline in activity could cease before long. Business and household confidence had picked up some, and survey data and anecdotal reports showed improved expectations for the future.

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