Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Bernanke: "What the Fed did and why"

by Calculated Risk on 11/03/2010 11:59:00 PM

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke explains what the Fed is trying to accomplish in the WaPo: What the Fed did and why: supporting the recovery and sustaining price stability

[W]hen the Fed's monetary policymaking committee - the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) - met this week to review the economic situation, we could hardly be satisfied. The Federal Reserve's objectives - its dual mandate, set by Congress - are to promote a high level of employment and low, stable inflation. Unfortunately, the job market remains quite weak; the national unemployment rate is nearly 10 percent ...

Today, most measures of underlying inflation are running somewhat below 2 percent, or a bit lower than the rate most Fed policymakers see as being most consistent with healthy economic growth in the long run. ... [L]ow and falling inflation indicate that the economy has considerable spare capacity, implying that there is scope for monetary policy to support further gains in employment without risking economic overheating. The FOMC decided this week that ... further support to the economy is needed. With short-term interest rates already about as low as they can go, the FOMC agreed to deliver that support by purchasing additional longer-term securities, as it did in 2008 and 2009. ...

This approach eased financial conditions in the past and, so far, looks to be effective again. Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell when investors began to anticipate the most recent action. Easier financial conditions will promote economic growth. For example, lower mortgage rates will make housing more affordable and allow more homeowners to refinance. Lower corporate bond rates will encourage investment. And higher stock prices will boost consumer wealth and help increase confidence, which can also spur spending. Increased spending will lead to higher incomes and profits that, in a virtuous circle, will further support economic expansion.