Participants generally saw the current elevated level of inflation as largely reflecting factors that were likely to be transitory but judged that inflation pressures could take longer to subside than they had previously assessed. They remarked that the Delta wave had intensified the impediments to supply chains and had helped sustain the high level of goods demand, adding to the upward pressure on prices. Participants also observed that increases in energy prices, stronger rates of nominal wage growth, and higher housing rental costs had been forces adding to inflation. Some participants highlighted the fact that price increases had become more widespread. Although participants expected significant inflation pressures to last for longer than they previously expected, they generally continued to anticipate that the inflation rate would diminish significantly during 2022 as supply and demand imbalances abated. Nonetheless, they indicated that their uncertainty regarding this assessment had increased. Many participants pointed to considerations that might suggest that elevated inflation could prove more persistent. These participants noted that average inflation already exceeded 2 percent when measured on a multiyear basis and cited a number of factors—such as businesses’ enhanced scope to pass on higher costs to their customers, the possibility that nominal wage growth had become more sensitive to labor market pressures, or accommodative financial conditions—that might result in inflation continuing at elevated levels. Some other participants, however, remarked that although inflationary pressures were lasting longer than anticipated, those pressures continued to reflect the same pandemic-related imbalances and would likely abate when supply constraints eased. These participants also noted that the most sizable price increases may have already occurred, that there was as yet little evidence of a change in inflation dynamics—such as the development of a wage–price spiral—that would tend to prolong elevated levels of inflation, and that forces already in motion would likely bring inflation down toward 2 percent over the medium term. Participants were attentive to the sizable increase in the cost of living that had taken place this year and the associated burden on U.S. households, particularly those who had limited scope to pay higher prices for essential goods and services.
In their comments on inflation expectations, a number of participants discussed the risk that, in light of recent elevated levels of inflation, the public’s longer-term expectations of inflation might increase to a level above that consistent with the Committee’s longer-run inflation objective; such a development could make it harder for the Committee to achieve 2 percent inflation over the longer run. A couple of participants pointed to increases in survey- and market-based indicators of expected inflation—including the notable rise in the five-year TIPS-based measure of inflation compensation—as possible signs that inflation expectations were becoming less well anchored. Several other participants, however, remarked that measures of near- and medium-term inflation expectations typically had been sensitive to movements in realized inflation and that they had not exhibited greater sensitivity recently. They additionally pointed out that indicators of longer-term inflation expectations—including the five-year, five-year-forward measure of inflation compensation—continued to display less sensitivity to realized inflation and remained well anchored at levels consistent with the Committee’s longer-run 2 percent goal.
Various participants noted that the Committee should be prepared to adjust the pace of asset purchases and raise the target range for the federal funds rate sooner than participants currently anticipated if inflation continued to run higher than levels consistent with the Committee’s objectives. At the same time, because of the continuing considerable uncertainty about developments in supply chains, production logistics, and the course of the virus, a number of participants stressed that a patient attitude toward incoming data remained appropriate to allow for careful evaluation of evolving supply chain developments and their implications for the labor market and inflation. That said, participants noted that the Committee would not hesitate to take appropriate actions to address inflation pressures that posed risks to its longer-run price stability and employment objectives.
From the Fed: FOMC Minutes, Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee, November 2-3, 2021. Excerpt on inflation: