Monday, December 07, 2009

NY Fed President Dudley: Still More Lessons from the Crisis

by Bill McBride on 12/07/2009 06:35:00 PM

From NY Fed President William Dudley: Still More Lessons from the Crisis

The entire speech is worth reading. Dudley discusses a number of topics including his economic outlook, how the Fed should respond to bubbles, and why he believes the Fed should retain supervisory authority.

Dudley offers a mea culpa for the Fed:

With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the Fed and other regulators, both here and abroad, did not sufficiently understand some of the critical vulnerabilities in the financial system, including the consequences of inappropriate incentives, and the opacity and the large number of self-amplifying mechanisms that were embedded within the system. Likewise, we did not appreciate all the ramifications of the growth of the shadow banking system and its linkage back to regulated financial institutions until after the crisis began.
It didn't take "hindsight" to see that the Fed was failing to properly regulate the financial system - many people were pointing out the problems in real time, and the Fed simply chose to ignore the warnings.

On bubbles:
[I]dentifying asset bubbles in real time is difficult. However, identifying variables that often are associated with asset bubbles—especially credit asset bubbles—may be less daunting. To take one recent example, there was a tremendous increase in financial leverage in the U.S. financial system over the period from 2003 to 2007, particularly in the nonbank financial sector. This sharp rise in leverage was observable. Presumably, this rise in leverage also raised the risks of a financial asset bubble and the impact of this bubble on housing certainly raised the stakes for the real economy if such a bubble were to burst. This suggests that limiting the overall increase in leverage throughout the system could have reduced the risk of a bubble and the consequences if the bubble were to burst.

Turning to ... how to limit and/or deflate bubbles in an orderly fashion, the fact that increases in leverage are often associated with financial asset bubbles suggests that limiting increases in leverage may help to prevent bubbles from being created in the first place. This again suggests that there is a role for supervision and regulation in the bubble prevention process. ...

Whether there is a role for monetary policy to limit asset bubbles is a more difficult question. On the one hand, monetary policy is a blunt tool for use in preventing bubbles because monetary policy actions also have important consequences for real economic activity, employment and inflation. On the other hand, however, there is evidence that monetary policy does have an impact on desired leverage through its impact on the shape of the yield curve. A tighter monetary policy, by flattening the yield curve, may limit the buildup in leverage.
emphasis added
We are making progress on bubbles.

And on the economic outlook:
My views about the outlook have not changed much recently and do not differ much from the consensus. The situation is slowly improving. We are having a recovery in terms of output and the pace of job losses has slowed substantially. In the second half of this year, real GDP growth will likely fall in a 3 percent to 3.5 percent annualized range. 2010 will probably be slightly weaker than that, mostly because some of the current sources of strength are temporary. The inventory cycle is providing lots of support right now and the fiscal stimulus—which is very powerful right now — will abate as we go through 2010.

2010 is also likely to be a more moderate growth period because we still face quite a few headwinds generated by the hangover of the financial crisis. ...

If growth is subdued, this implies that the unemployment rate will stay high and inflation will stay low. If this outlook is broadly correct, this suggests that it will be appropriate to keep the federal funds rate target exceptionally low for an extended period.
It is very unlikely that the Fed will raise the Fed funds rate in 2010.

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