Fed's Harker calls for research to understand 'unruly' economic factors

Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Patrick Harker on Tuesday encouraged researchers to develop more “angles of analysis” on the economy “at a time when far more of the variables appear to be uncertain - or unruly.”

Harker’s prepared remarks, scheduled to be delivered at the opening of a “neuroeconomics” conference about blending the study of neuroscience, psychology and economics, did not address his economic policy or interest rates outlook. Harker does not currently vote on rates but participates in deliberations by the Fed’s policy-setting committee.

He said more study could help “as a new economic normal takes hold, even as a record-long expansion continues; and as many of our traditional models and modes of assessment have begun to lose their predictive and evaluative prowess.”

The Fed cut rates last week for the first time since 2008, citing signs of a global slowdown, simmering U.S. trade tensions and a desire to boost too-low inflation. A move by Washington to declare Beijing a currency manipulator on Monday put more pressure on the central bank to lower borrowing rates further.

In recent years, the central bank has had to revise downward its estimates of the long-run unemployment rate and “neutral” interest rates as debate continues about how much inflation can be generated by the U.S. economy’s ongoing growth.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Dan Grebler