So when Fisher told CNBC that ?We?re clearly in the eighth inning of a tightening cycle,? he wasn?t just tossing any old baseball analogy at the economy. He was saying he believes Fed monetary policy has done a good job at containing core inflation.
Listen to this pro call the game: ?We have the ninth inning coming up at the end of June; we feel strongly we have been getting good, fast, hard pitches right down the pike.? Fisher was of course talking about Fed restraining moves, and he did add that ?There is room to tighten a little bit further.? But he finally said that the Fed has ?to get rates to a point where you have that stasis -- neither stimulating inflation nor discouraging economic growth. We are not quite there yet -- we are getting closer and as they say . . . stay tuned.?
The Fed has raised its target rate since June 2004 from 1 percent to 3 percent. Fisher seems to be implying that it would go to 3.25 percent and then hold there for at least several months. This is exceptionally good news for the investor class and the economy.
To be sure, Fisher is hardly speaking from left field. The indicators soundly back him up.
The oil-price shock has not spilled over into non-oil or non-energy price increases. The core consumer spending deflator (excluding food and oil) -- Alan Greenspan?s favorite price measure -- has been steady at only 1.6 percent growth over the past eight months.
What?s more, sensitive commodity and market-price indicators that tend to lead inflation have turned down with a vengeance. This includes gold, raw materials, and Treasury-bond rates. Meanwhile, the difference between long- and short-term interest rates, known as the slope of the Treasury yield curve, has narrowed substantially, though it still remains positive and normal. These are all signs that inflation is contained and well within the Fed?s target range.
Market price signals are forecasting continued economic expansion with low inflation. Exactly what Greenspan & Co. desire. In effect, the Fed has reigned in the money supply to curb inflation fears, while the supply-side tax cuts put in place two years ago continue to provide economic growth incentives.