Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fed's Dudley: Recovery to be "Lackluster"

by Bill McBride on 7/29/2009 12:12:00 PM

From NY Fed President William Dudley: The Economic Outlook and the Fed's Balance Sheet: The Issue of "How" versus "When"

Dudley discussed his economic outlook, and how the Fed will exit from the current policy stance. Dudley doesn't think the Fed's policy stance will change any time soon.

Here are some excerpt on his economic outlook:

[T]he economic contraction appears to be waning and it seems likely that we will see moderate growth in the second half of the year. The economy should be boosted by three factors: 1) a modest recovery in housing activity and motor vehicle sales; 2) the impact of the fiscal stimulus on domestic demand; and 3) a sharp swing in the pace of inventory investment. In fact, if the inventory swing were concentrated in a particular quarter, we could see fairly rapid growth for a brief period.

Regardless of the precise timing, there are a number of factors which suggest that the pace of recovery will be considerably slower than usual. In particular, I expect that consumption—which accounts for about 70 percent of gross domestic product—is likely to grow slowly for three reasons. First, real income growth will probably be weak by historical standards. There were a number of special factors that boosted real income in the first half of the year, helping to offset a sharp drop in hours worked and very sluggish hourly wage gains. These factors included the sharp drop in gasoline and natural gas prices; the large cost-of-living-allowance increase for Social Security recipients reflecting last year’s high headline inflation; a sharp drop in final tax settlements; a reduction in withholding tax rates; and a one-time payment to Social Security recipients. These factors provided a transitory boost to real incomes, which will be absent during the second half of the year. As a result, real disposable income is likely to decline modestly over this period.

Second, households are still adjusting to the sharp drop in net worth caused by the persistent decline in home prices and last year’s fall in equity prices. This suggests that the desired saving rate will not decline sharply. That means consumer spending is unlikely to rise much faster than income. In other words, weak income growth will be an effective constraint on the pace of consumer spending.

Moreover, some sectors such as business fixed investment in structures are likely to continue to weaken as existing projects are completed. In an environment in which vacancy rates are high and climbing, prices are falling, and credit for new projects is virtually nonexistent, this sector is likely to be a significant drag on the economy over the next year.

Perhaps most important, the normal cyclical dynamic in which housing, consumer durable goods purchases and investment spending rebound in response to monetary easing is unlikely to be as powerful in this episode as during a typical economic recovery. The financial system is still in the middle of a prolonged adjustment process. Banks and other financial institutions are working their way through large credit losses and the securitization markets are recovering only slowly. This means that credit availability will be constrained for some time to come and this will serve to limit the pace of recovery.

If the recovery does, in fact, turn out to be lackluster, the unemployment rate is likely to remain elevated and capacity utilization rates unusually low for some time to come. This suggests that inflation will be quiescent. For all these reasons, concern about “when” the Fed will exit from its current accommodative monetary policy stance is, in my view, very premature.
emphasis added
The rest of the speech is on the "how" of unwinding current policy and is worth reading.

Note: Usually the NY Fed president is one of the most powerful Fed voices and has a permanent seat on the FOMC (the other Fed presidents serve on a rotating basis).

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