Transcripts of the monetary policymaking body of the Federal Reserve from 2002–2008.

The basic message from the rest of the global economy is that economic conditions are favorable and appear likely to remain so through the end of next year. Although small variations in the basically optimistic outlook are present, real GDP growth in the foreign economies seems poised to continue at an average annual rate of about 3½ percent throughout the forecast period. Inflation risks are present as slack has been reduced in several foreign economies. However, we anticipate that central banks abroad will respond further as needed such that inflation abroad will edge up only slightly through the end of 2008. In this forecast round, the staff had to contend with a move back up in global crude oil prices and further increases in nonfuel commodities prices—shocks common to the whole global economy. In addition, for the U.S. outlook, we needed to take account of the depreciation of approximately 2 percent in the foreign exchange value of the dollar over the intermeeting period, as Dave discussed.

We have recently revisited the question of whether we could improve upon the forecast for crude oil prices embedded in market futures prices and have convinced ourselves based on empirical evidence that we cannot. As a result, our projections for future WTI spot oil prices and the average oil import price are shifted up and down over time by fluctuations in spot and futures oil prices. This has been an “up” forecast round. After reaching a peak around August of last year, global oil prices fell through very early this year and then reversed to trend back up, but not smoothly. The upward move of oil prices over the intermeeting period was apparently a response to the surprising degree of continued production restraint from OPEC and heightened concerns about supply from Iran, Iraq, and Nigeria. The strength in global demand for energy, too, no doubt provided support for continued elevated prices. In this forecast we also had to take into account a deviation in the usual price spread between West Texas intermediate and other grades of oil. Reduced refinery activity has led to an unusually large accumulation of crude oil stocks in the Midwest, the delivery area for WTI, and depressed its price relative to that for other grades.

When we were finalizing the baseline forecast, spot and futures prices implied an increase to our projection for WTI crude oil in the current quarter of about $4.50 per barrel relative to the projection in the March Greenbook; however, this change understates a bit the upward shift in overall oil prices because of the change in spreads. These considerations led us to revise upward the average oil import price in the Greenbook for the current quarter about $6.50 per barrel. We expect that over the forecast period the relative prices of WTI and other grades will gradually move back toward normal, so our upward revision narrows somewhat in future quarters, particularly by the second half of 2008. The baseline forecast reflects the consequences of these higher oil prices for the U.S. economy and the rest of the world. Turning points in the ups and downs of oil prices have an uncanny way of happening at the time that we are finishing the Greenbooks, and such a turning point might have happened again. Since the Greenbook path was set, crude oil prices have moved back noticeably. If we were concluding our forecast today based on yesterday’s futures prices, we would show an upward revision in the near term of only about half that in the Greenbook. For 2008, our upward shift would be about two-thirds of that in the Greenbook. The effects of this more benign level for oil prices would be slightly positive for real GDP growth both in the United States and abroad. Such a lower projected path for oil prices would also slightly lessen the pressures on headline inflation rates that are a feature of the baseline forecast.

Another element in the forecast worth a brief mention is the upward revision to both core import price inflation and core export price inflation for the second quarter, to annual rates of 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent, respectively. Prices for core imports and core exports accelerated in the first quarter as prices for food and industrial supplies, particularly fuels and metals, surged. Metals prices have continued to rise in recent weeks, and the increase, along with the recent depreciation of the dollar, led us to revise up our current-quarter projections. In constructing our forecast for these trade prices, we base our projection of the commodity-price component on market futures prices. Again, we have done recent work to see if a better alternative is available, but we have concluded that none is. Despite rapid increases in prices of various traded commodities over the past few years, the futures markets are implying a path through the end of 2008 that is about flat for an index of nonfuel commodities. In combination with our projection for only modest real dollar depreciation and no major changes in overall inflation rates here and abroad, such an outlook for commodity prices yields a deceleration in both core import prices and core export prices. Our forecast for the increase in these prices in 2008 remains low, at 1.3 percent.

Although oil prices have been revised up this time, their projected path flattens in mid-2007. This outlook and the flat projected paths for commodity prices and the dollar imply a waning of the upward push to consumer prices that has resulted from rising oil and commodity prices. Consequently, in the Greenbook forecast, only limited further tightening by some foreign central banks is required to contain inflation. That events in these markets may surprise futures traders and us for yet another year with additional commodity-price increases is a major risk to our outlook for inflation. David and I will be happy to take any questions.

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