Thursday, February 03, 2011

Fed Chairman Bernanke: The Economic Outlook and Macroeconomic Policies

by Calculated Risk on 2/03/2011 12:30:00 PM

Bernanke says the economy is improving, but QE2 will remain ...

From Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: The Economic Outlook and Macroeconomic Policies

[W]e have seen increased evidence that a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold. ... [A]lthough economic growth will probably increase this year, we expect the unemployment rate to remain stubbornly above, and inflation to remain persistently below, the levels that Federal Reserve policymakers have judged to be consistent over the longer term with our mandate from the Congress to foster maximum employment and price stability. Under such conditions, the Federal Reserve would typically ease monetary policy by reducing the target for its short-term policy interest rate, the federal funds rate. However, the target range for the funds rate has been near zero since December 2008, and the Federal Reserve has indicated that economic conditions are likely to warrant an exceptionally low target rate for an extended period. As a result, for the past two years we have been using alternative tools to provide additional monetary accommodation.
Unemployment is too high. Inflation (core measures) still too low. So QE2 will continue ...

And on inflation:
On the inflation front, we have recently seen significant increases in some highly visible prices, notably for gasoline. Indeed, prices of many commodities have risen lately, largely as a result of the very strong demand from fast-growing emerging market economies, coupled, in some cases, with constraints on supply. Nevertheless, overall inflation remains quite low: Over the 12 months ending in December, prices for all the goods and services purchased by households increased by only 1.2 percent, down from 2.4 percent over the prior 12 months. To assess underlying trends in inflation, economists also follow several alternative measures of inflation; one such measure is so-called core inflation, which excludes the more volatile food and energy components and therefore can be a better predictor of where overall inflation is headed. Core inflation was only 0.7 percent in 2010, compared with around 2-1/2 percent in 2007, the year before the recession began. Wage growth has slowed as well, with average hourly earnings increasing only 1.8 percent last year. These downward trends in wage and price inflation are not surprising, given the substantial slack in the economy.