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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.

After Fiscal Mess, Uncertainty Concerning Monetary Policy is Coming in US

According to FT, Larry Summers, which is now seen as the front-runner to replace Fed Chairman Bernanke, made dismissive remarks about the effectiveness of quantitative easing at a conference in April, raising the possibility of a big shift in US monetary policy.

 

More from FT:

 

“QE in my view is less efficacious for the real economy than most people suppose,” said Mr Summers according to an official summary of his remarks at a conference organised in Santa Monica by Drobny Global, obtained by the Financial Times.
 
Mr Summers – who served as President Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser from 2009-2010 – has seldom spoken in public about monetary policy. Markets have little sense of his current thinking and may be surprised by his apparently hawkish stance on QE.

 

The disclosure of his remarks comes as the race for the Fed chairmanship is widely regarded as being between Mr Summers and Janet Yellen, the current Fed vice-chair, who has been an architect of its QE policies. The fact is that even if even Larry Summers seems to be backed by President Barack Obama, that’s not the case for a number of US Senate Democrats who sent a letter supporting Janet Yellen as the next Fed Chairman.

 

More from FT:

 

A number of US Senate Democrats are circulating a letter supporting Janet Yellen to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve in an ominous sign for supporters of Larry Summers.
 
The letter has been pushed by Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Senate officials said, one of the chamber’s leading liberals and a longtime critic of financial deregulation and trade liberalisation.
 
Signatories include Tom Harkin of Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein of California.
 
Senate officials said a single copy of the letter had been circulated to the chamber’s 54 Democrats. It is not known how many senators have signed the letter.

 

The second story shows that there could be some tensions in the Democrat Party in a context where President Barack Obama will confront with lawmakers (after a long August holiday) on a daunting list of decisions affecting the economy (“continuing resolution”, 2014 fiscal budget, fiscal consolidation plan and debt ceiling) and therefore will need the full support of his party. If he remains isolated and unable to find a compromise with Republicans, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts of $109 billion, could entry into force on October 1st.

 

In the meantime, if Larry Summmers is chosen, it could apply a less accommodative monetary policy which could increase uncertainty and the fear of a return into recession.

G20 Sets Supporting Growth and Jobs as Top Priority

The G20 has agreed that strengthening growth and jobs is the near-term priority for the global economy remains too weak and its recovery is still fragile and uneven.

 

More from G20 Communique:

 

Strengthening growth and creating jobs remain our priority and we are fully committed to taking decisive actions to return to a robust, job rich growth path.

 

The global economy remains too weak and its recovery is still fragile and uneven. Unemployment remains excessively high in many countries. There are signs of strengthening activity in the U.S. and Japan, the recession in the euro area continues even though there are signs of stabilization and growth in many emerging market economies continuing but at a slower pace. While our policy actions have contributed to contain downside risks, those still remain elevated with rising disparity in regional growth prospects. There has been an increase in financial market volatility and tightening of financial conditions.

 

To place the global economy on a stronger, more sustainable and more balanced growth path, we will intensify our policy actions and develop a comprehensive St Petersburg Action Plan. We agreed that our near term priority is to boost jobs and growth. We are committed to further reducing financial market fragmentation, moving ahead decisively with reforms towards a banking union in Europe, continuing monetary support where needed, calibrating the pace and composition of fiscal consolidation plans to economic conditions and fiscal space, continuing to implement or putting in place credible medium term fiscal strategies in advanced economies, rebalancing global demand, and taking measures to support growth, stability and resilience in emerging market economies. Equally important, we agreed that to strengthen our medium term growth potential, the St Petersburg Action Plan must include a comprehensive series of structural reforms that will increase productivity, labor force participation and employment. To this end, we have reviewed our structural reform agenda and agreed to address the gaps in our policy commitments with actions that clearly contribute to our collective objective of achieving strong, sustainable and balanced growth.

 

Achieving a stronger and sustainable recovery while ensuring fiscal sustainability in advanced economies remains critical. As agreed, progress is being made in developing credible, ambitious and country-specific medium term fiscal strategies for the St Petersburg Summit. These strategies will be sufficiently flexible to take into account near term economic conditions, so as to support economic growth and job creation while putting debt as a share of GDP on a sustainable path.

 

We are determined to accelerate progress toward rebalancing global demand, including internal rebalancing through structural reforms. This requires surplus economies to boost domestic sources of growth and deficit economies to increase national savings and enhance competitiveness. We reiterate our commitments to move more rapidly toward more market-determined exchange rate systems and exchange rate flexibility to reflect underlying fundamentals, and avoid persistent exchange rate misalignments. We will refrain from competitive devaluation and will not target our exchange rates for competitive purposes. We will resist all forms of protectionism and keep our markets open.

 

Monetary policy should be directed toward domestic price stability and continue to support economic recovery according to the respective mandates of central banks. We recognize the support that has been provided to the global economy in recent years from accommodative monetary policies, including unconventional monetary policies. We remain mindful of the risks and unintended negative side effects of extended periods of monetary easing. Future changes to monetary policy settings will continue to be carefully calibrated and clearly communicated. We reiterate that excess volatility of financial flows and disorderly movements in exchange rates have adverse implications for economic and financial stability. Sound macroeconomic policies and strong prudential frameworks will help address potential volatility. We will continue to monitor financial market conditions carefully.