Fed’s Waller: ‘Go early and go fast’ on taper

FILE PHOTO: Federal Reserve Board building is pictured in Washington, U.S., March 19, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Ann Saphir

(Reuters) – Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller on Monday said the U.S. central bank could start to reduce its support for the economy by October if the next two monthly jobs reports each show employment rising by 800,000 to 1 million, as he expects.

“We should go early and go fast, in order to make sure we’re in position to raise rates in 2022, if we have to,” Waller said in an interview on CNBC, adding that he could see the Fed announcing a reducing in its monthly bond purchases in September and a start to that reduction in October.

And once the Fed begins the process, Waller said, “There’s no reason you’d want to go slow on the taper, to prolong it – you want to get it done and get it over.”

The Fed is buying $80 billion in Treasuries and $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities each month to help push downward on borrowing costs and speed the recovery. It has said it will continue to make purchases at that pace until the economy makes “substantial further progress” toward the Fed’s goals of full employment and 2% inflation.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell said last week the job market recovery is still “a ways off” from the point where it would be appropriate for the Fed to start paring its bond purchases.

Speaking Friday, Fed Governor Lael Brainard echoed that sentiment, indicating in a speech Friday that she would want to have data from the September jobs report – not available until early October — to make such a decision.

To Waller, an increase of some 1.6 million to 2 million jobs in July and August would mean that the economy will have regained 85% of its job losses, Waller said. That, in his view, meets the “substantial further progress” bar for tapering.

The government is due to release its July report on Friday, and economists estimate it will show U.S. employers added about 880,000 jobs last month.

Waller’s former boss, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, on Friday also called for the Fed to begin reducing its bond-buying by the fall.

Most on Wall Street have been expecting the taper to start late in 2021 or in 2022.

Waller said he does not believe the Delta variant of the coronavirus will “sideline” the economy. He added that while he believes the recent hot readings on inflation will subside later in the year, there’s “upside risk” to that expectation.

(Reporting by Ann Saphir; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)

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