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Fed To Cut Interest Rates, Resume Bond-Buying To Stimulate Growth (#GotBitcoin?)

President Trump on Friday repeated his call for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates and said it should restart buying assets to stimulate growth. Fed To Cut Interest Rates, Resume Bond-Buying To Stimulate Growth (#GotBitcoin?)

‘In terms of quantitative tightening, it should absolutely now be quantitative easing.’

“In terms of quantitative tightening, it should absolutely now be quantitative easing,” he told reporters.

Fed officials bought trillions of dollars’ worth of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities in the aftermath of the recession. Now they are slowly unwinding those assets from their portfolio. They have said they plan to stop letting maturing assets roll off later this year.

Also Friday, White House economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow said Mr. Trump’s Fed nominees, Herman Cain and Stephen Moore, are “very capable people” who would offer a counterweight to other views on the Federal Reserve Board of governors.

“They will reflect those views to balance perhaps some of the other views on the Federal Reserve Board,” Mr. Kudlow said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.

Mr. Trump said Thursday he intends to nominate Mr. Cain, a former GOP presidential candidate and pizza restaurant executive, to a seat on the Fed’s Washington-based board. Mr. Trump has also said he intends to nominate Mr. Moore, a former adviser and CNN commentator, to a Fed spot.

Both Mr. Cain and Mr. Moore have criticized the Fed’s accommodative monetary policy after the recession. Both have also called for a return to the gold standard.

In recent weeks, Mr. Moore has aligned himself with Mr. Trump’s view that the Fed should stop its rate increases. The Fed raised rates four times last year, but officials have since signaled they intend to pause rate increases for the now.

Updated: 1-7-2021

Fed Sees Bond-Buying Programs As An Open-ended Effort

Minutes from December meeting show officials worrying about economic risks from surging virus cases, but hopeful about vaccines.

Federal Reserve officials last month broadly supported new plans to guide the steady growth of their $7.4 trillion asset portfolio, but they didn’t see a strong case to boost the economic stimulus the asset purchases provide.

Since June, the central bank has been buying $120 billion in Treasury and mortgage securities a month—initially to stabilize markets and later to support the economy by holding down long-term interest rates. Minutes of the Fed’s Dec. 15-16 policy meeting indicated officials saw a high bar for dialing up that support by increasing the amount or changing the composition of those purchases.

“Participants generally judged that the asset purchase program as structured was providing very significant policy accommodation,” according to the minutes, which were released Wednesday.

‘A number of participants saw risks to economic activity as more balanced than earlier.’
— From Fed minutes

The minutes also indicated that many officials were nervous about the potential for growth to stall in the winter amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. But they also thought newly approved vaccines had reduced the chance of worse-than-anticipated economic outcomes later in 2021.

“A number of participants saw risks to economic activity as more balanced than earlier,” the minutes said.

For the first time since the pandemic reached the U.S. last March, officials at last month’s meeting discussed the possibility that economic growth could accelerate faster than expected. That scenario included wider-scale vaccinations releasing pent-up demand as social-distancing measures eased sooner than previously anticipated—which, in turn, could allow displaced workers to return to jobs sooner.

Still, the minutes showed officials were in no hurry to reduce their support for the economy. They expressed concern that permanent layoffs, as opposed to temporary furloughs, had been rising. Because it traditionally takes longer for workers who lose jobs permanently to find new ones, officials worried that better-than-expected economic growth wouldn’t necessarily yield equivalent improvements in labor-market conditions.

Besides of the grim public-health situation, officials cited concerns about several possibilities that were subsequently avoided in the weeks after the meeting. Those included the prospect that Congress wouldn’t agree on another virus-aid bill or that the U.K. and the European Union wouldn’t successfully conclude trade negotiations. Congress approved a $900 billion aid package later in December, and a new U.K.-EU trade deal was secured and came into force on Jan. 1.

Fed officials slashed their short-term interest rate to near zero in March as the coronavirus pandemic disrupted financial markets and the economy. They also launched an array of emergency lending programs and began large-scale purchases of government debt and mortgage securities.

At last month’s Fed meeting, officials updated their formal guidance around how long their asset purchases would continue, complementing a pledge in September that set a higher bar to raise interest rates.

The Fed has been buying $80 billion in Treasurys and $40 billion in mortgage bonds monthly since June. Until last month, the Fed had pledged to maintain those purchases “over coming months.” The central bank updated that guidance at the December meeting, stating the purchases would continue “until substantial further progress has been made” toward its broader employment and inflation goals.

This judgment would be “broad, qualitative and not based on specific numerical criteria or thresholds,” the minutes said.

The minutes also said all 17 Fed officials at the meeting supported the new guidance, which they believed “underscored the responsiveness of balance-sheet policy to unanticipated economic developments.”

Projections released last month showed most officials don’t expect to reach the central bank’s employment and inflation goals for years, leading them to hold interest rates near zero for at least three more years despite a somewhat more optimistic economic outlook.

The minutes said the new guidance reflected officials’ intentions to commit to a longer period of near-zero rates and a larger asset portfolio if it took more time for the economy to recover from the downturn.

The goal of the Fed’s new guidance is to avoid the kind of market backlash that occurred in 2013, when then-Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested the central bank might soon taper its asset purchases. Investors thought the Fed was accelerating its plans to raise interest rates, sparking a sudden one-percentage-point jump in the 10-year Treasury yield that became known as the “taper tantrum.”

At a news conference last month, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said when the central bank is close to meeting its new benchmark of substantial progress, “we will say so, undoubtedly, well in advance of any time when we would actually consider gradually tapering the pace of purchases.”

Several officials thought that once the Fed decided to begin reducing the pace of its asset purchases, it could follow the same sequence that occurred in 2013; it slowly reduced the pace of purchases for around a year before phasing them out.

In the run-up to last month’s meeting, some investors focused on whether the Fed might change the composition of its holdings by buying more Treasury securities with longer-term yields to hold those yields down, as it did during bond-buying programs last decade.

The minutes showed only two officials were open to making such a change, though officials said they could consider those adjustments later.

Mr. Powell said last month the Fed didn’t think such charges were appropriate because long-term rates are already very low, boosting sectors of the economy such as housing. “Interest-sensitive parts of the economy, they’re performing well,” he said. “The parts that are not performing well are not struggling from high interest rates. They’re struggling from exposure to Covid.”

Updated: 2-14-2021

Fed’s Daly Sees Central Bank Maintaining Its Bond-Buying Pace Through 2021

The San Francisco Fed chief says that another round of fiscal aid from the government shouldn’t overheat the economy.

Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco leader Mary Daly said the U.S. central bank is unlikely to pull back on its bond-buying stimulus this year, and that another round of government aid shouldn’t overheat the economy.

The official said she continues to expect the U.S. economy to pick up speed over the second half of the year, as vaccinations roll out and allow the economy to emerge from the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic. But even as the nation emerges from the crisis, it won’t yet be time for the central bank to pull back on its $120 billion a month in bond buying, she told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

“For now, we have policy in a good place,” Ms. Daly said. “If you take the lens of my modal outlook, then it’s really continuing to purchase at the current pace through the end of this year.”

If the economy delivers the robust growth in the second half of the year that most central bankers expect, “then I can see the need to keep the current pace as not being as critical” starting some time next year, she said.

Ms. Daly was interviewed ahead of remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The Fed leader also said he sees no reason for the central bank to pull back on aid for the economy, saying the asset purchases are “a key part of what we’re doing in providing overall accommodation to the economy…We’re not thinking about shrinking the balance sheet.”

Ms. Daly is a voting member of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee this year. At its meeting at the end of January, the central bank held its short-term interest-rate target at near zero and said it would press forward with the purchase of mortgage and Treasury bonds, in an effort designed to support financial-market functioning and keep real-world borrowing costs low.

In recent comments, other central bank officials have been hesitant to provide firm guidance about the path of bond buying, in an uncertain economy that they say needs Fed and broader government support.

Fed officials broadly agree actions by the rest of government have been critical in offsetting the impact of the pandemic. The Biden administration is working with Congress to pass another massive relief package, but some are worried that pumping more money into the economy when recovery seems nearer could cause problems and drive inflation up more than desired, in turn forcing the Fed to move away from the its ultra-easy policy.

Ms. Daly said the things now debated by Congress “are not things that are going to overheat our economy. These are things going to distressed people, distressed sectors, distressed businesses.”

The pandemic “is not over. And for us to say [more aid] is too much, I don’t know what metric and yardstick people are using; it’s certainly not looking out in their communities” and taking stock of the pain many Americans are feeling, Ms. Daly said.

The greatest risk is that we get nervous, and we pull back accommodation too quickly on the fears of rapidly rising inflation or on the overconfidence that inflation’s hit our target, and then we have more work to do to get it back up.
— San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly

The central banker welcomed data that showed market-based expectations of future inflation are on the rise, and she attributed a good part of that move up toward the Fed’s new inflation framework. Late last year, the central bank said it would allow inflation to overshoot its 2% target to make up for times where it has fallen short, in a bid to help deal with persistent weakness in price pressures.

“I am very happy” to see inflation expectations perking up, Ms. Daly said. “I view that as a data point of evidence that our framework is well understood by market participants,” she said.

Like many of her colleagues, Ms. Daly said she wouldn’t be surprised to see inflation pressures accelerate as the economy recovers, but she doesn’t expect that to endure. And that will pose a test for policy makers.

“The head fake I want to avoid is thinking that a few quarters of very rapid growth can be extrapolated to future quarters of very rapid growth. If that happens, fantastic,” Ms. Daly said.

“The greatest risk is that we get nervous, and we pull back accommodation too quickly on the fears of rapidly rising inflation or on the overconfidence that inflation’s hit our target, and then we have more work to do to get it back up,” Ms. Daly said.

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