Archive for the ‘Federal Reserve’ Category
May 1st 2013, 21:45 by G.I. | WASHINGTON, D.C.
THE Federal Reserve, as widely expected, stood pat today, reaffirming its commitment to near zero interest rates until unemployment fell to 6.5% or lower, and continuing to buy $85 billion of Treasury and mortgage-backed bonds until the jobs market improved substantially.
But its otherwise ho-hum statement jolted markets with this new line: “The Committee is prepared to increase or reduce the pace of its purchases to maintain appropriate policy accommodation as the outlook for the labor market or inflation changes.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Dec 13th 2012, 2:00 by G.I. | WASHINGTON, D.C.
[Greg Ip] Low inflation and full employment have been statutory goals of the Federal Reserve since 1977, but its officials always felt more comfortable with the first than the second. After all, in theory monetary policy can’t alter unemployment in the long run.
But the stubbornly weak economy of recent years prompted some at the Fed to question their historical neglect of the second half of their mandate. “The Fed’s dual mandate … has the force of law behind it,” Charlie Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said in September, 2011. “So, if 5% inflation would have our hair on fire, so should 9% unemployment.”
Nov 29th 2012, 21:37 by G.I. | WASHINGTON, D.C.
Ben Bernanke has done his bit to help the American economy. Now the politicians must do theirs
Sep 22nd 2012 | from the print edition
EVEN by the standards of a weak recovery, America’s economy has looked frail lately. Growth has sunk below 2%. Unemployment is stuck above 8%. Factory activity seems to be shrinking. Yet there is no mistaking the green shoots of optimism, in particular on Wall Street: the stockmarket has hit its highest level since 2007. Consumer confidence is edging up, and along with it approval of Barack Obama, raising his odds of re-election even before Mitt Romney’s gaffes (see article).
Give credit to central bankers and their printing presses for the improving mood. Read the rest of this entry »
Sep 13th 2012, 21:11 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
[Greg Ip] Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve reached a crossroads. It had lowered short-term interest rates to zero and promised to keep them there until 2013, and then 2014. It had undertaken multiple rounds of bond purchases to lower long-term interest rates. Yet the recovery was actually losing steam; unemployment had stopped falling. Was there anything left to try?
The answer, it turns out, is yes. Read the rest of this entry »
Central bankers wonder why success eludes them
Sep 8th 2012 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] IMAGINE that the world’s best specialists in a particular disease have convened to study a serious and intractable case. They offer competing diagnoses and treatments. Yet preying on their minds is a discomfiting fact: nothing they have done has worked, and they don’t know why. That sums up the atmosphere at the annual economic symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, convened by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City and attended by central bankers and economists from around the world*. Near the end Donald Kohn, who retired in 2010 after 40 years with the Fed, asked: “What’s holding the economy back [despite] such accommodative monetary policy for so long?” There was no lack of theories. But, as Mr Kohn admitted, none is entirely satisfying. Read the rest of this entry »
Aug 31st 2012, 21:00 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
[Greg Ip] IF THE Federal Reserve eases monetary policy again at its meeting on September 13th, as I expect, it will be its most meticulously debated, planned and scrutinised move in recent memory. The case for action has been apparent at least since the spring when it became clear the economy would underperform the Fed’s repeatedly lowered economic forecasts. Yet Ben Bernanke spent much of the press conference following the Fed’s meeting in June, when it extended Operation Twist (the purchase of long-term bonds financed by selling short-term bonds) on the defensive over why the Fed hadn’t done more. In August, it again chose not to pull the trigger. But it did release a statement that hinted the point was drawing near. The minutes to that meeting released three weeks later suggested it would take an immediate and powerful improvement in the economy to stay the Fed’s hand.
Jun 18th 2012, 16:35 by G.I. | WASHINGTON
When Federal Reserve officials meet this week, they will despondently confront an economy yet again falling short. Employment growth has flagged. GDP probably grew less than 2% (annualized) in the first half of this year; clouds from Europe, Asia and America’s own “fiscal cliff” darken the second half. The Federal Open Market Committee’s full year forecast of 2.4% to 2.9% looks out of reach.
So what will they do? Much of the street expects some kind of action, a view I share. It would probably come as an extension of “Operation Twist,” the purchase of longer-term bonds in exchange for short or medium bonds already in the Fed’s portfolio. It could stretch this out over a few months or a full year.
This, however, will be fiddling at the edges. What critics say the Fed needs is a wholesale makeover of its goals and methods. Some want the Fed to raise its inflation target. Others would have it adopt a nominal GDP target. Both approaches are intended to induce easier monetary policy that would foster faster growth in employment. At the opposite end of the spectrum, more conservative economists and Republican legislators want to take away the Fed’s responsibility for full employment and have it focus solely on inflation.
Lost in this blizzard of outside advice is the fact that the Fed actually has a new framework of its own. In January it declared that henceforth its long-run target for inflation was 2%. Previously Fed members only stated their long-run preference, which ranged from 1.5% to 2%. It also said it considered its two statutory goals, low inflation and full employment, equally important. Previously, employment was, de facto, subordinate to inflation.
If you haven’t heard more about this, it’s because the Fed has treated the target like an unwanted Christmas gift, still unopened months after the tree has been taken down. The initial announcement was devoid of any hint of radicalism; it didn’t even use the word “target” or spell out the implications of its “balanced” approach to inflation and employment. It felt like the FOMC couldn’t agree on whether it was, or ought to be, a genuine departure. Indeed, the Fed acts as if nothing has changed. Its “appropriate” monetary policy in April yielded forecast inflation of 2% or lower over the next few years. This vindicates critics who say the Fed acts as if 2% is a ceiling, not a target.
If the Fed were conducting policy based on this new framework, inflation would be centered around 2%. Indeed, if the Fed treated employment and inflation equally, it would likely tolerate inflation above 2% given that it is missing its full employment mandate more than its low inflation mandate. Read the rest of this entry »
The Fed makes its views loud and clear
Jan 28th 2012 | WASHINGTON, DC | from the print edition
Central-bank lending to government serves a valuable, though risky, purpose
Nov 5th 2011 | from the print edition
[Greg Ip] IT CANNOT be pleasant to start a new job with a continent’s fate resting on your shoulders. On November 1st, Mario Draghi’s first day as president of the European Central Bank (ECB), peripheral-government bond yields shot up and stockmarkets sank on fears that Greeks might reject a rescue plan agreed days earlier. On November 3rd, as The Economist went to press, Mr Draghi was presiding over his first policy meeting. Much is riding on what the ECB decides then and in coming weeks because it alone currently has the means to stem the intensifying crisis. It has bought Greek, Portuguese and Irish debt; since early August, it has also purchased Spanish and Italian bonds. But its purchases have been intermittent and begrudging. Without a firm commitment to buy as much as needed to prevent yields on Italian and Spanish bonds rising so high that both countries become insolvent, investors have less incentive to return. The ECB’s reluctance to make such a commitment is understandable: its legal mandate and doctrinal persuasion bar it from directly supporting governments. Yet throughout history central banks have been lenders of last resort to their governments. In 1694 the English monarchy was broke and in need of a loan so that it could wage war with France. A group of financiers agreed to lend the crown £1.2m in return for a partial monopoly on the issue of currency. Thus was born the Bank of England. Read the rest of this entry »