Fed’s Daly: Policy in a ‘good place,’ risks ‘balanced’

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) -San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly on Friday said she believes the U.S. economy and monetary policy are in a “good place,” and the risks have grown more balanced while work remains to bring down inflation. 

“We have to calibrate very carefully to ensure that we continue to bring inflation down and we ensure that we do it gently, as gently as we possibly can,” Daly told the San Diego County Economic Roundtable.

“We know that policy is in a good place, the economy is in a good place, and we can start to be more patient to see what we need, as a Fed, to do next,” she said. “It takes patience. It takes gradualism.”

The words calibration, patience and gradualism suggested Daly believes Fed rate cuts will arrive but are not imminent.

Unlike last year, when the focus was on fighting inflation, Daly said this year there is more need for attention to the Fed’s other mandate – achieving maximum employment.

“The risks to the economy are balanced, and the risks to both sides of our mandate are balanced,” she said.

Earlier on Friday Daly said it would be “premature” to think interest-rate cuts were around the corner. Inflation has come down from its 2022 peak but is still too high, she said, noting December core consumer price inflation was 3.9%.

“There is a lot of work to do. There is no denying it,” she said.

The Fed targets 2% inflation, though by a different yardstick than Daly cited. By that measure, the personal expenditures price index, year-over-year inflation measured 2.6% in November, the latest reading available.

Daly is likely the last Fed policymaker to speak publicly before the Fed’s Jan 30-31 policy meeting, due to an agreed-upon quiet period running up to each meeting.

Comments from other policymakers this week and stronger-than-expected economic data have prompted traders to temper bets on a first Fed rate cut in March, pricing in a May start to rate cuts instead.

Markets took particular note of Fed Governor Christopher Waller, who said inflation is within “striking distance” of the Fed’s goal but that the central bank should move carefully and methodically.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, David Gregorio and William Mallard)