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Fisher: Fed should ditch flawed 'dot' forecasts

There are flaws in the published forecasts of individual Federal Reserve policymakers, and the U.S. central bank should consider ditching them altogether, a top Fed policymaker said on Friday.

Richard Fisher President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Richard Fisher President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

Zeroing in on the so-called "dot chart'' the central bank publishes quarterly, which show policymakers' expected path of interest rates, Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said they are largely the result of guesswork. Also problematic, he said, is that they reflect the views of policymakers who are coming and going.

"If the dot chart creates confusion, one option would be to dispense with the exercise altogether,'' said Fisher, a hawkish voter on the Fed's policy committee this year. Ever known for evocative speeches, he channeled the children's author Dr. Seuss to say: "So, out, damned dot! Out with the lot! It's clearly time to go.''

The dot charts, formally known as the summary of economic projections, show when each of the Fed's 16 policymakers expect rates to finally rise after more than five years near zero, which according to the March publication was 2015. Adopted in early 2012, the charts also show how high officials think rates will rise by the end of the next few years and in the longer run.

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Analysts have keyed in on the dots for insight on overall Fed policy plans, though they have at times contradicted the official statement from the Fed's policy-making Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The anonymous dot of Fed Chair Janet Yellen, for example, is no different from those of regional Fed presidents who may have more extreme views, hawkish or dovish.

In his speech to a bankers group here, Fisher cautioned against reading too much into the dots, which he called a "flawed tool,'' and predicted the Fed would continue to refine its communications after some breakdowns in the past.

While Fed policymakers generally agree the dot charts are imperfect, most are resigned to keeping them while the central bank approaches what will be a delicate tightening cycle.

Still Fisher said no policymaker "is a seer and none possess Nostradamus-like insight, even (over) a couple of quarters; and, given that the roster of those who actually vote on policy is constantly changing, it is a wonder that the analytical community and market economists have become so fixated on ''the dots," he said.

For now the Fed is winding down a stimulative bond-buying program, which Fisher repeated he expects to be ended at a policy-setting meeting in October. The central bank has said it expects to raise rates a ''considerable time" after the purchases are shelved.

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''For the economy as a whole, there is abundant liquidity to finance economic expansion, and the FOMC will assure that it remains affordable as long as the prospect of inflation rising above its 2 percent target remains in abeyance," Fisher said.

—By Reuters

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