Sonders on Interest Rates, and Why Not to Fear Inflation

Add Charles Schwab’s Liz Ann Sonders to the list of top strategists who say that the Federal Reserve’s recent increase of the Discount Rate isn’t a sign that other key interest rates will be upped any time soon.

In her latest commentary on Schwab’s site, Sonders says that while the Fed has started winding down some of the short-term, emergency measures it implemented to prevent a systemic collapse, the “paring back [of] broader-based support for the economy, a.k.a. rate hikes … is not imminent.” Comparing the economy to a sick patient, she says, “The treatment prescription for an emergency room patient in severe distress is entirely different than the treatment prescription for a patient that’s in the recovery room. When judging the recent and prospective actions by the Federal Reserve to begin reining in monetary stimulus, it’s an apt analogy.”

Sonders also expresses a contrarian opinion on inflation. “The conventional, and consensus, wisdom is that the unprecedented stimulus the Fed has injected is necessarily inflationary, possibly hyper-inflationary,” she writes. “We disagree.”

The reason: Sonders says that while the monetary base has gone through the roof, the money multiplier remains on the floor. “When the Fed pumps liquidity into the banking system, it gets multiplied through the economy quickly if and only if banks are actually lending,” she says. If they aren’t, she says, “it can result in the growth of excess reserves — characteristic of the present environment.”

Sonders also provides interesting data on how stocks and bonds have performed historically leading up to and after interest rate hikes. And she discusses what the record-breaking current yield curve says about the economic recovery.

To listen to a summarized audio version of Sonders’ comments, click here.

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