For the first time since the pandemic began a majority of business economists believe the Federal Reserve is providing too much stimulus, a marked shift from last spring that reflects growing worries about high U.S. inflation.
Some 52% of those surveyed by the National Association of Business Economists said the Fed is “too stimulative”, a new survey shows. Just 26% thought so in March.
The shift in attitude is the result of a sharp rebound in the economy since the spring and an accompanying surge in inflation.
The U.S. grew at a 6.5% annual pace in the second quarter that ran from April to June and it was still expanding rapidly as of early August.
Yet the robust rebound has also spawned the biggest increase in inflation since 2008. Companies haven’t been able to supply all the goods and services that customers demand — in no small part because of widespread shortages of labor and materials.
These shortages have contributed to big price increases in new and used cars, groceries and other products.
Fed officials believe the bout of rising prices will recede by next year and that the annual increase in inflation will return to its pre-coronavirus trend of 2% of less.
Most economists agree with the Fed, but 58% of those surveyed by the NABE said there’s a greater risk that inflation stays above the central bank’s target beyond next year.
The Fed has sought to shore up the U.S. economy by keeping interest rates extremely low. The central bank has accomplished its strategy by reducing a key short-term interest rate charged to banks to near zero and by buying trillions in dollars worth of U.S. Treasurys and mortgage-backed bonds.
These bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates very low and reduced home mortgage rates to under 3%.
Most economists expect the Fed to start to “taper,” or scale back bond purchases, before the end of this year. Yet they don’t expect the central bank to raise interest rates until the end of 2022.
The survey didn’t query economists about the effect of the delta strain of the coronavirus. The Fed have grown more worried and two senior officials said delta could change their view on when the Fed should begin to taper.
Most Fed leaders agreed in July that they should begin to taper before year end, but that was before the delta variant emerged as a big threat.
Most business economists favor tighter government rules on vaccinations.
Some 79% said companies should require employees to be vaccinated before they return to work, the poll showed. And 69% believe the federal government should create a standard document for citizens that certifies they have been vaccinated.