Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fed's Plosser opposes QE2

by Bill McBride on 9/29/2010 12:49:00 PM

With QE2 arriving on November 3rd - barring an upside surprise in the economic data - it is interesting to hear the views of the Fed presidents.

From Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser: Economic Outlook. On QE2:

[I]t is difficult, in my view, to see how additional asset purchases by the Fed, even if they move interest rates on long-term bonds down by 10 or 20 basis points, will have much impact on the near-term outlook for employment. Sending a signal that monetary policymakers are taking actions in an attempt to directly affect the near-term path of the unemployment rate, and then for those actions to have no demonstrable effects, would hurt the Fed’s credibility and possibly erode the effectiveness of our future actions to ensure price stability. It also risks leading the public to believe that the Fed is seeking to monetize the deficit and make it more difficult to return to normal policy when the time comes.
And on the outlook:
While the near-term outlook has softened a bit, I expect growth in the national economy to be around 3 to 3½ percent over the next two years, with stronger business spending on equipment and software, moderate growth of consumer spending, and gradual improvement in household balance sheets.

The unemployment rate continues to be one of the biggest challenges our economy faces. Although unemployment will begin to decline gradually, it will take some time for it to return to its long-run level. As the economy strengthens and firms become convinced that the recovery is sustainable, hiring will pick up over the rest of this year and in 2011. But it may take even longer to address the sectoral, geographic, and skill imbalances that seem to plague the labor markets.

I expect inflation to remain subdued. As long as inflation expectations remain well anchored, I see little risk of a period of sustained deflation.
Although I agree that there will be some geographic and skill mismatches going forward because of the housing bubble - I don't think that is the main problem impacting the labor markets right now. There are many highly skilled people currently unemployed in many sectors - so Plosser's view appears incorrect.

I'm surprised that Plosser is sticking with his optimistic (so far wrong) economic outlook. Right now Plosser is an alternate member of the FOMC and next year he will be a voting member (along with several other Fed presidents with similar views).