The U.S. economy is naturally slowing to a more sustainable pace and this is welcome as it will help prevent a recession, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said on Friday.
In 2018, the economy grew close to a 3% annual rate, “and that, by anyone’s estimate, is a full percentage point above what we can potentially grow at,” Daly said, during a conversation hosted by the Bay Area Council in San Francisco.
The consensus forecast for 2019 is for growth at a 2% annual rate, about the consensus for the economy’s speed limit, she said. That suits the Fed, she said.
“We want it to come back down,” she said.
Daly’s comments conflict with White House chief economist Kevin Hassett, who has predicted the economy can grow at a 3% annual rate thanks to the Trump administration’s policy agenda.
“What’s happened over the course of the last six months is the economy is self-bridling itself to come back down to a sustainable pace,” Daly said.
“That will, if anything, help us prevent a recession,” she added.
The Fed can’t guarantee there will not be future recessions, so the goal is try to make sure they are less likely “and that if we do slip, it is not a big slip like we just came through, but something more modest.” Daly said.
Since last fall, when she became president of the San Francisco Fed, Daly said the Fed was fighting the market’s fear that the economic expansion would “die of old age.”
The current expansion began in June 2009. If it makes it to this summer it will be the longest in U.S. history.
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The reason that stocks SPX, +0.07% fell sharply over the fourth quarter is that people started to react to that fear, despite the Fed’s best efforts to persuade investors this was a fallacy, Daly said.