Inflation is rising too fast, Goldman Sachs says

Goldman Sachs is worried that inflation could rise faster than expected, and urged policymakers to take action to avoid “a dangerous overheating.”

Their recommendation: five more 25 basis point hikes before assessing whether further hikes are necessary.

The U.S. economy showed no sign of slowing in October, as Friday’s jobs report showed payrolls growing by 250,000 and unemployment holding steady at 3.7%. But it was wage growth of 3.1% year-over-year that had economists wondering if the Fed now sees inflation near its 2% target.

Goldman’s Jan Hatzius wrote Sunday that unemployment should continue to decline to 3% by early 2020, noting the labor market also has room to accommodate more wage growth. Hatzius predicted that average hourly earnings would likely grow in the 3.25% to 3.50% range over the next year.

That rapid pace of wage growth could set the Fed up for a “meaningful overshoot” of its 2% inflation target.

“If unemployment is (perhaps well) below 3.50% and inflation above 2%, we think Fed officials will need to be quite confident that growth will stay at or below trend to sound an all-clear on further rate increases, which could translate into a large easing in financial conditions and a return to growth rates well above trend,” Hatzius wrote.

Hatzius wrote that the economy needs to slow to avoid overheating, and worries that inflation could run away if the Fed does not take action. For now, Goldman has a baseline forecast of 2.3% for core PCE — which it noted as within the Fed’s comfort zone — but warned that inflation is poised to move higher on President Donald Trump’s tariffs.

The note also warned that with the labor market continuing to tighten, inflation will likely push “notably, not just slightly, higher.”

Hatzius said a slowdown could stabilize the unemployment rate, and already predicts that the economy will calm to a GDP growth rate of 2.6% in the fourth quarter. But if the slowdown is not enough, unemployment could destabilize into 2020 and inflation could run rampant.

Goldman recommended five more rate hikes before reassessing if further hikes are necessary. That outlook is more hawkish than those of other Fed figures; Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said the Fed should take a step back after its next three hikes.

Hatzius said that the economic outlook is still subject to change from a number of geopolitical factors, such as the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday and the trade conflict with China.

Brian Cheung is a reporter covering the banking industry and the intersection of finance and policy for Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter @bcheungz.

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