Fed's Plosser: Clear Regulatory Rules Are Best


PHILADELPHIA--There isn't much the Federal Reserve can do to address low inflation in the short term, and the central bank shouldn't try to boost inflation by prolonging its bond-buying program, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said Tuesday.

"I can be concerned about inflation, but then the question is, 'What do you do about it?' We're still adding accommodation, and we've got record-low interest rates," Mr. Plosser told reporters following a speech here. "I don't believe, for example, that buying even more assets than we are will help our inflation problem."

The Fed already has been making large asset purchases, he noted, "and inflation has done nothing but drift down. So it's not obvious to me that continuing to buy would be an answer to concern about inflation."

Mr. Plosser is an inflation hawk who has been skeptical of the Fed's bond-buying efforts. He has a vote this year on the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee, which next meets April 29-30.

The central bank's bond-buying program has sought to stimulate the economy by lowering borrowing costs for consumers and businesses. The Fed has been reducing its monthly purchases, which stand at $55 billion in April, and is expected to end the program this year as the labor market grows healthier. The unemployment rate stood at 6.7% in March, down from 7.5% a year earlier.

The Fed also has set a 2% goal for U.S. inflation. Its preferred gauge, the personal consumption expenditures price index, rose 0.9% in February from a year earlier, according to the Commerce Department. That was the 22nd straight month it undershot the Fed's target.

Some Fed officials have expressed concern about sluggish price growth. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said in March that a persistently low rate of inflation "could very well be indicative of some more fundamental weakness in the economy."

Mr. Plosser on Tuesday said he is confident inflation will return to the 2% target over time, in part because expectations remain well-anchored. "In the short run, I'm not terribly concerned," he said.

Earlier, Mr. Plosser delivered a speech at his bank on financial stability and regulation. He called for greater transparency and simplicity in financial regulations, and said any further reforms should feature clear rules that boost the market's own ability to contain risks.

"Our regulatory framework is becoming increasingly complex, which has led to compliance costs as well as enforcement costs also becoming higher and more complex," Mr. Plosser said.

He added, "An increased role for simple regulatory mechanisms that are harder to evade--and even better, mechanisms that utilize market forces to discipline firm behavior--I believe is superior to an ever-expanding list of complex rules that seek to micro-manage every possible outcome."

For example, Mr. Plosser said, "higher capital requirements based on the leverage ratio, as opposed to overly complex risk-weighting schemes, might lower both compliance and enforcement costs while achieving similar or even better outcomes in terms of the safety and soundness of individual institutions and, perhaps, improving overall financial stability as well."