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Yellen: Fed might want to run a 'high-pressure economy'

In a further indication that the Federal Reserve will be inclined to let inflation run hot for a while, Chair Janet Yellen on Friday said it's useful to consider the benefits of a "high-pressure economy."

Normal times call for the U.S. central bank to stand vigilant watch over price pressures. However, Yellen said the post-financial crisis period has pushed policymakers into reconsidering the dynamics of inflation.

She pointed out that the economy has seen an unusual tendency of weak demand against strong supply, making it reasonable "to ask whether it might be possible to reverse these adverse supply-side effects by temporarily running a 'high-pressure economy,' with robust aggregate demand and a tight labor market."

Yellen made the remarks at the Boston Fed in a speech that offered few clues otherwise about the near-term future of monetary policy.

The policymaking Federal Open Market Committee hasn't approved an interest rate increase since December 2015.However, pressure is building. Three FOMC members dissented at the September meeting, believing the committee should have raised it key funds rate a quarter-point. Traders believe there's about a 65 percent chance the committee will hike in December.

Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference conference following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, September 21, 2016 in Washington, DC.
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Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a news conference conference following the Federal Open Market Committee meeting, September 21, 2016 in Washington, DC.

The Fed would like to see inflation run about 2 percent, but that goal has remained elusive and has triggered a lower-for-longer approach to interest rates. Yellen's remarks Friday could add to the belief that the Fed would let inflation run above its target before getting more aggressive about raising rates.

Yellen said in her speech that the world after the financial crisis has forced central bankers to re-think their approach. Cutting interest rates alone isn't enough in a low-rate world, she said, adding that the movements in the U.S. play a key role in the world.

"Research by Federal Reserve staff suggests that, all told, U.S. monetary policy spillovers to other economies are positive — that is, policies designed to provide stimulus to the U.S. economy also boost activity abroad, as negative effects of dollar depreciation are offset by positive effects of higher U.S. imports and easier foreign financial conditions," she said.

However, she said policymakers need to broaden their approach, particularly when looking at how financial crises affect individuals rather than the broader public. Homeowners with negative equity, for instance, were hit disproportionately during the last crisis.