The Kansas City Federal Reserve’s annual event, being held virtually again amid a coronavirus outbreak, is an opportunity for the U.S. central bank chief to shed light on officials’ intentions after minutes of the July 27-28 meeting showed most of them judged it appropriate to start slowing asset purchases this year.
The Fed is currently buying about $120 billion of assets per month — $80 billion of Treasury securities and $40 billion of mortgage-backed debt — and has pledged to keep up that pace until “substantial further progress” has been made toward its goals of maximum employment and 2% inflation.
“Powell could fill in some of the blanks,” said Thomas Costerg, senior U.S. economist at Pictet Wealth Management. “The recent minutes were pretty vague and there is a lot of room to give more specifics on taper timing and practicalities. It would be good to see where Powell and the rest of the board stand.”
The Jackson Hole event is traditionally scrutinized for hints on upcoming changes in stance. Some Fed leaders have used it as a platform to explain new initiatives, as Powell did last year in unveiling a new monetary policy framework.
Three-quarters of economists expect a signal of when tapering could start to be shared either at Jackson Hole or at the Sept. 21-22 decision, when the committee updates its quarterly forecasts, according to a Bloomberg survey of 51 participants conducted in July.
The symposium will take place from Thursday to Saturday. The Kansas City Fed had intended to hold the event in person at its usual location in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, but announced on Friday that it would shift to a virtual format due to an uptick in local Covid-19 cases.
While this year’s topic has been revealed as “Macroeconomic Policy in an Uneven Economy,” the exact lineup of speakers other than Powell hasn’t been disclosed.