Trader Talk

Yellen warns on waiting too long to hike

Federal Reserve Board Chairwoman Janet Yellen delivers remarks December 2, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Getty Images

Janet Yellen, in her speech before the Economic Club of Washington, did not rule in or out a December rate hike, but she certainly made the case for hiking. She made it clear that the U.S. was closer to its objectives, but the key paragraph in her speech was this warning about the dangers of waiting too long to hike:

"Were the FOMC to delay the start of policy normalization for too long, we would likely end up having to tighten policy relatively abruptly to keep the economy from significantly overshooting both of our goals. Such an abrupt tightening would risk disrupting financial markets and perhaps even inadvertently push the economy into recession. Moreover, holding the federal funds rate at its current level for too long could also encourage excessive risk-taking and thus undermine financial stability."

Abrupt tightening. Overshooting goals. Disrupting financial markets. Pushing the economy into recession. Excessive risk taking. These words are loaded with gravitas, and makes it clear they are worried about being behind the curve.

During the discussion, when asked about what the pace of rate hikes might look like, she said flat out: "There is no such plan" to consistently raise rates. The actual plan will depend on the data: "The first step does not mean we have embarked on a predetermined plan" to raise rates.

Finally she insisted "I don't need unanimity" on the FOMC to raise rates, but do need "a certain degree of consensus."