Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the case to raise interest rates is getting stronger as the U.S. economy approaches the central bank’s goals.
“In light of the continued solid performance of the labor market and our outlook for economic activity and inflation, I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months,” she said in the text of a speech Friday to central bankers and economists in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
She also said the economy is “nearing” the Fed’s goals of full employment and stable prices. The Fed chair didn’t discuss the specific timing of a rate move in her first public comments since June.
The Federal Open Market Committee raised its target for the federal funds rate to a range of 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent in December, after keeping the benchmark near zero for seven years.
Despite their repeated intentions to raise the rate again, officials have skipped a hike at all five meetings this year, and futures markets have priced in about a 30 percent chance of another hike at the Sept. 20-21 policy meeting, the second-to-last gathering before presidential elections in November.
“While economic growth has not been rapid, it has been sufficient to generate further improvement in the labor market,” Yellen said at the Kansas City Fed’s annual conference, the title of which is “Designing Resilient Monetary Policy Frameworks for the Future.”
“Looking ahead, the FOMC expects moderate growth in real gross domestic product, additional strengthening in the labor market, and inflation rising to 2 percent over the next few years,” Yellen said in her prepared remarks.“Based on this economic outlook, the FOMC continues to anticipate that gradual increases in the federal funds rate will be appropriate over time to achieve and sustain employment and inflation near our statutory objectives.”
A Commerce Department report released earlier Friday showed the U.S. economy grew less than previously reported last quarter on lower government outlays and a bigger depletion of inventories, capping a sluggish first-half performance propped up mainly by consumer spending. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 1.1 percent annualized rate, down from an initial estimate of 1.2 percent, the report showed.
The Fed chair’s speech comes amid a reassessment among central banks globally about future strategies for monetary policies, a topic she addressed in the second half of her remarks. Ageing populations, declining productivity and below-target inflation rates are likely to result in lower peaks in their policy interest rates. That means central banks are likely to reach the zero boundary on their policy rates faster in the next recession.
San Francisco Fed President John Williams, Yellen’s former research director when she was head of that bank, urged central banks in an essay earlier this month to “carefully reexamine” their strategies, and mentioned the possibility of raising inflation targets, among other options. By contrast, David Reifschneider, a special adviser to Fed governors, argued in a paper that “even in the event of a fairly severe recession, asset purchases and forward guidance should be able to compensate” for the Fed’s limited scope to reduce short-term rates.
Her review of the Fed’s “toolkit” began with a spirited defense of techniques used during the financial crisis, including bond purchases and pledges to hold rates low for an extended period. She made clear the Fed should retain those new tools. Those may be needed again, she said, as the next recession may arrive before interest rates rise to levels normally seen during an economic recovery.
“We expect to have less scope for interest rate cuts than we have had historically,” she said.
Without embracing their views, Yellen acknowledged that economists, including some prominent Fed officials, have suggested the Fed consider broadening its asset purchases if that strategy is required again, and raising its inflation target. “The FOMC is not actively considering these additional tools and policy frameworks, although they are important subjects for research,” she said.
Crude Oil Dips Slightly on Friday Amid Demand Concerns
On Friday, global crude oil prices experienced a slight dip, primarily attributed to mounting concerns surrounding demand despite signs of a tightening market.
Brent crude prices edged lower, nearing $83 per barrel, following a recent uptick of 1.6% over two consecutive sessions.
Similarly, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude hovered around $78 per barrel. Despite the dip, market indicators suggest a relatively robust market, with US crude inventories expanding less than anticipated in the previous week.
The oil market finds itself amidst a complex dynamic, balancing optimistic signals such as reduced OPEC+ output and heightened tensions in the Middle East against persistent worries about Chinese demand, particularly as the nation grapples with economic challenges.
This delicate equilibrium has led oil futures to mirror the oscillations of broader stock markets, underscoring the interconnectedness of global economic factors.
Analysts, including Michael Tran from RBC Capital Markets LLC, highlight the recurring theme of robust oil demand juxtaposed with concerning Chinese macroeconomic data, contributing to market volatility.
Also, recent attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Houthi militants have added a risk premium to oil futures, reflecting geopolitical uncertainties beyond immediate demand-supply dynamics.
While US crude inventories saw a slight rise, they remain below seasonal averages, indicating some resilience in the market despite prevailing uncertainties.
Nigeria’s Petrol Imports Decrease by 1 Billion Litres Following Subsidy Removal
Nigeria’s monthly petrol imports declined by approximately 1 billion litres following the fuel subsidy removal by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported.
The NBS findings illuminate the tangible effects of this policy shift on the country’s petroleum importation dynamics.
Prior to the subsidy removal, the NBS report delineated a consistent pattern of petrol imports with quantities ranging between 1.91 billion and 2.29 billion litres from March to May 2023.
However, in the aftermath of Tinubu’s decision, the nation witnessed a notable downturn in petrol imports, with figures plummeting to 1.64 billion litres in June, the first post-subsidy month.
This downward trend persisted in subsequent months, with July recording a further reduction to 1.45 billion litres and August witnessing a significant decline to 1.09 billion litres.
August’s import figures represented a decrease of over 1 billion litres compared to the corresponding period in 2022.
The NBS report underscores the pivotal role of the subsidy removal in reshaping Nigeria’s petrol import landscape with the Nigerian National Petroleum Company emerging as the sole importer of fuel in the current scenario.
Despite higher petrol imports in the first half of 2023 compared to the previous year, the decline in June, July, and August underscores the profound impact of subsidy removal on import dynamics, affirming the NBS’s latest findings.
Nigeria’s Oil Rig Count Soars From 11 to 30, Says NUPRC CEO
The Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), Gbenga Komolafe, has announced a surge in the country’s oil rig count.
Komolafe disclosed that Nigeria’s oil rigs have escalated from 11 to 30, a substantial increase since 2011.
Attributing this surge to concerted efforts by NUPRC and other governmental stakeholders, Komolafe highlighted the importance of instilling confidence, certainty, and predictability in the oil and gas industry.
He explained the pivotal role of the recently implemented Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which has spurred significant capital expenditure amounting to billions of dollars over the past two and a half years.
Speaking in Lagos after receiving The Sun Award, Komolafe underscored the effective discharge of NUPRC’s statutory mandate, which has contributed to the success stories witnessed in the sector.
The surge in Nigeria’s oil rig count signifies a tangible measure of vibrant activities within the upstream oil and gas sector, reflecting increased drilling activity and heightened industry dynamism.
Also, Komolafe noted that NUPRC has issued over 17 regulations aimed at enhancing certainty and predictability in industry operations, aligning with the objectives outlined in the PIA.
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