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Fed’s Lockhart Remains Cautious in Reducing Asset Purchases

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart, who has backed the Fed’s $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, said policy makers should move cautiously this year to the extent that U.S. economic performance remains too mixed to lay out a detailed path for reducing and eventually halting their asset-purchase stimulus plan at their September meeting.

 

More from WSJ:

 

The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said central bank policy makers should move cautiously this year in deciding when and how to scale back its bond-buying program.
 
Atlanta Fed chief Dennis Lockhart said the central bank could make its first reduction in its $85 billion per month bond buying program any time before the end of the year, but isn’t locked into to doing so following its September meeting.
Mr. Lockhart said the “most influential” for him is monthly payroll jobs number but he will also look at other factors, including inflation measures.
 
Recent economic data has shown that the labor market is strengthening, though he is “somewhat concerned” about part-time and temporary jobs pushing up overall job gains. He also characterized recent economic growth as “lackluster.”
 
He stressed that the initial reduction is only the beginning of the process and officials will make adjustments based on the latest economic data. With the unemployment rate falling to 7.4% in July, many economists expect the Federal Reserve to start slowing the pace of purchases next month.
 
Even after the first step is taken, Lockhart said it wouldn’t be advisable for the Federal Reserve to offer a “precise, beginning-to-end path” for ultimately ending bond purchases.

 

All Fed members’ speeches since the last FOMC meeting (July 30-31) are available here.

San Francisco Fed Research Sees QE Offering at Best Moderate Growth Boost

According to San Francisco Fed research, the Fed’s bond-buying programs have given a moderate boost to the economy, but they would have far less impact without the Fed’s simultaneous promise to keep rates low, they showed.

 

In this context, the message from researchers is that Federal Reserve should end its massive bond-buying program in the coming months.

 

More from San Francisco Fed:

 

The Federal Reserve’s large-scale purchases of long-term Treasury securities most likely provided a moderate boost to economic growth and inflation. Importantly, the effects appear to depend greatly on the Fed’s guidance that short-term interest rates would remain low for an extended period. Indeed, estimates from a macroeconomic model suggest that such interest rate forward guidance probably has greater effects than signals about the amount of assets purchased.

 
 

 Figure 1: Estimated effects of large-scale asset purchases

Change in real GDP growth

 
 

Figure 2: Estimated effects of temporary federal funds rate cut

Change in real GDP growth

Federal Reserve Gave Six Signals that “Tapering” Will Not Start at its Next Meeting

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve gave six signals that “tapering” will not start at its next meeting in September:

 

1/ It downgraded its view of economic activity, calling the pace of growth “modest” rather than “moderate”. The fact is that GDP publication shows that growth slowed significantly in H1 2013. Moreover, the Fed’s forecast for 2013, which was [2.3%-2.6%] in June, could not be achieved. As an example, the GDP should grow by 4% (QoQ annualized) in Q3 and Q4 to reach 2.6% in 2013. As a consequence, in September, the Fed committee will be obliged to revise sharply its growth estimate for 2013 and also the next coming years.

 

2/ The Federal Reserve noted that mortgage rates had risen, implicitly flagging this as a drag to the housing recovery which was one of the main driver of US growth last quarters.

 

3/ Inflation weakness became a concern of most Fed members. A subject that apparently secured the vote of St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard, who dissented in June over worries about deflation.

 

4/ Fed members did not give any guidelines about how the committee might adjust its purchases in response to economic developments. I expect that Fed committee will detail clearly its strategy before “tapering” because it wants to avoid any tensions on the financial market in a context where fiscal uncertainty remains.

 

5/ Once again, Fed members underlined that fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. I believe that lawmakers will not find compromise on the “continuing resolution” and 2014 budget until the end of September. Therefore, as I said before, the Federal Reserve will not create more uncertainty.

 

6/ Despite better labor market conditions, the Federal Reserve noted that “unemployment rate remains elevated”.

 

FOMC Statement:

 

Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in May suggests that economic activity has been expanding at a moderate pace. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months, on balance, but the unemployment rate remains elevated. Household spending and business fixed investment advanced, and the housing sector has strengthened further, but fiscal policy is restraining economic growth. Partly reflecting transitory influences, inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.
 
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate. The Committee sees the downside risks to the outlook for the economy and the labor market as having diminished since the fall. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.
 
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee decided to continue purchasing additional agency mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month and longer-term Treasury securities at a pace of $45 billion per month. The Committee is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. Taken together, these actions should maintain downward pressure on longer-term interest rates, support mortgage markets, and help to make broader financial conditions more accommodative.
 
The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments in coming months. The Committee will continue its purchases of Treasury and agency mortgage-backed securities, and employ its other policy tools as appropriate, until the outlook for the labor market has improved substantially in a context of price stability. 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. In determining the size, pace, and composition of its asset purchases, the Committee will continue to take appropriate account of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases as well as the extent of progress toward its economic objectives.
 
To support continued progress toward maximum employment and price stability, the Committee expects that a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy will remain appropriate for a considerable time after the asset purchase program ends and the economic recovery strengthens. In particular, the Committee decided to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that this exceptionally low range for the federal funds rate will be appropriate at least as long as the unemployment rate remains above 6-1/2 percent, inflation between one and two years ahead is projected to be no more than a half percentage point above the Committee’s 2 percent longer-run goal, and longer-term inflation expectations continue to be well anchored. In determining how long to maintain a highly accommodative stance of monetary policy, the Committee will also consider other information, including additional measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial developments. When the Committee decides to begin to remove policy accommodation, it will take a balanced approach consistent with its longer-run goals of maximum employment and inflation of 2 percent.
 
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Charles L. Evans; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Eric S. Rosengren; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was James Bullard, who believed that the Committee should signal more strongly its willingness to defend its inflation goal in light of recent low inflation readings, and Esther L. George, who was concerned that the continued high level of monetary accommodation increased the risks of future economic and financial imbalances and, over time, could cause an increase in long-term inflation expectations.