(Reuters) – Federal Reserve policymakers are shrugging off the surge in longer-term U.S. government bond yields as a sign of growing optimism about the economy, which could pick up steam as more people are vaccinated against the coronavirus.
And none of the officials so far are signaling an interest in lightening up on the U.S. central bank’s accommodative monetary policy stance, even as the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note on Thursday topped the 1.50% level for the first time in a year, sending stocks sharply lower. The 10-year yield has tripled since last August.
“Much of this increase likely reflects growing optimism in the strength of the recovery and could be viewed as an encouraging sign of increasing growth expectations,” Kansas City Fed President Esther George told farm executives in a virtual event on Thursday, adding to a chorus of similar remarks from other Fed officials in recent days.
Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, speaking in a separate online event organized by the Greater Naples Chamber, said bond yields remained comparatively low and that the central bank did not need to do anything at this time to address the uptick.
“Right now I am not worried about that,” Bostic said. “We will keep an eye out. … I am not expecting that we will need to respond at this point in terms of our policy.”
Fed officials said the increase in yields is a reflection of confidence that a robust economic recovery is on the horizon for the second half of the year, as more vaccines are distributed and with more fiscal stimulus likely on the way.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Tuesday that the U.S. economy could grow in the range of 6% this year, in line with some private forecasts.
But policymakers said the improved outlook does not warrant a response from the central bank, which has vowed to keep its benchmark overnight interest rate at the near-zero level and to continue purchasing $120 billion a month in government bonds and mortgage-backed securities until the economy is on stronger footing.
“I gave a rosy outlook,” St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, among the most bullish in his outlook for a pickup in economic growth and drop in unemployment this year, told reporters after an economic forecasting seminar organized by Georgia State University. “It is only an outlook. I would want to see if it materializes.”
The economy is far from receiving the all-clear, with new variants of the virus threatening to lead to a rise in infections and the labor market still 10 million jobs short of where it was before the pandemic, Fed officials said.
“The FOMC is positioned to be patient as it follows the outlook for the virus and the economy,” George said, referring to the policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee. “It’s too early at this point to talk about pulling back on that accommodation,” George said, pointing to elevated unemployment, low inflation and uncertainties about the economic outlook.
(Reporting by Jonnelle Marte and Howard Schneider; Editing by Paul Simao)