Four New Voters to Join Fed’s Key Panel Amid Rate-Increase Uncertainty

Quartet to face greater scrutiny as 2019 additions to the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee

James Bullard (Dove)

Dec. 7: “I’m the most dovish person” at the Fed, and “I don’t think we’re in the position now to be penciling in further increases” in short-term interest rates.

Esther George (Hawk)

Oct. 11: The “gradual normalization of policy” the Fed has been pursuing “seems appropriate,” and “the current setting of its overnight interest rate target remains below estimates of its longer-run value.”

Eric Rosengren (Hawkish)

Oct. 1: “I believe that Federal Reserve policymakers will likely need to move interest rates gradually from a mildly accommodative stance to a mildly restrictive stance.”

Charles Evans (Hawkish)

Nov. 16: “Getting to a neutral setting is probably our first-order job,” he said, referring to the process of lifting rates to a level that neither spurs nor slows growth.

.. The new group includes Kansas City Fed President Esther George, the most “hawkish” central bank policy maker in Fed lingo because she consistently supports rate rises out of concern that low borrowing costs could fuel financial instability and create inflationary risks.
.. At the other end of the Fed policy spectrum is St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, the most “dovish” because he opposes any more rate increases as unnecessary and possibly risky to U.S. growth.
.. In between, but on the hawkish side, are Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren, both of whom have recently favored rate increases to prevent the economy from overheating and potentially fueling excessive inflation or asset bubbles.

However, three of them—Messrs. Bullard, Evans, and Rosengren—have sharply shifted their policy preferences in the past based on economic developments and could do so again in 2019.

.. Ms. George is likely to support further rate rises, and she could be a leading voice for more increases even when her colleagues are less sure that is the way to go. Ms. George has consistently suggested interest rates should move higher for several years.

Mr. Bullard appears the most likely of the four to cast a dissenting vote if the Fed does raise rates as projected. He says that with inflation low and stable, there is nothing pushing the Fed toward tighter monetary policy. He’s also worried higher rates could trigger a recession at some point.