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Monday, August 27, 2012

Fed's Pianalto discusses Benefits and Costs of QE3

by Calculated Risk on 8/27/2012 01:08:00 PM

From Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto: The Federal Reserve and Monetary Policy

I am expecting the U.S. economy to continue to grow, but at a moderate pace. I expect economic growth of about 2 percent this year. And with this moderate GDP growth forecast, my outlook is for very slow improvement in the jobless rate. I expect the pace of GDP growth to pick up gradually through 2014, and for the unemployment rate to remain above 7 percent through 2014. Given my outlook for slow economic growth, I also expect slow wage growth, and I anticipate that core inflation will remain near the FOMC's 2 percent long-term objective over the next few years. While inflation remains close to our objective, unemployment is still well above the FOMC's estimate of the longer-term normal rate. The monetary policy debate is whether the FOMC should take further actions to stimulate today's slow-growth economy to bring down unemployment.

Monetary policy should do what it can to support the recovery, but there are limits to what monetary policy can accomplish. Monetary policy cannot directly control the unemployment rate. It can only foster conditions in financial markets that are conducive to growth and a lower unemployment rate. At times, significant obstacles can get in the way.
... large-scale asset purchases can be effective. But our experience with these programs is limited, and as a result, they justify more analysis. For example, as the structure of interest rates has moved lower over time, it is possible that future large-scale asset purchase programs will yield somewhat smaller interest-rate declines than past programs. A related issue to evaluate is whether further reductions in longer-term interest rates would stimulate economic activity to the same degree as they have in the past.

Let me now turn to some of the potential costs. It is conceivable that, at some point, policies designed to promote further declines in rates could interfere with financial stability. Some financial institutions find themselves challenged today by the low-interest-rate environment, and they might take actions to remain profitable that could affect risk in the financial system. ...

Finally, it is also conceivable that, at some point, the Federal Reserve's presence in certain securities markets would become so large that it would distort market functioning. It is important to have good estimates of how large the Federal Reserve's participation would have to be to cause a meaningful deterioration in securities market functioning, and to better understand the potential costs of such deterioration for the economy as a whole.

The bottom line is this: I am supportive of actions that provide economic benefits with manageable risks. The FOMC's policy actions to date have been important economic stabilizers and have acted to support the expansion. Yet today, we still find ourselves in a challenging economic environment – one in which we continue to rely on nontraditional policy tools. These new tools come with benefits and with risks ... and we must constantly weigh both in our efforts to meet our dual mandate of maximum employment and stable prices.
Pianalto is a voting member of the FOMC and her views are considered to be in the middle. Her concern about "a meaningful deterioration in securities market functioning" was addressed in the last meeting in a staff report, from the FOMC minutes:
In reviewing the costs that such a program might entail, some participants expressed concerns about the effects of additional asset purchases on trading conditions in markets related to Treasury securities and agency MBS, but others agreed with the staff's analysis showing substantial capacity for additional purchases without disrupting market functioning.
Some reports will probably focus on Pianalto's comment that "there are limits to what monetary policy can accomplish", but she clearly outlined the dual mandate, noted that unemployment was forecast to be very high for years, while inflation is forecast to be "close" to the FOMC objective - and there has already been a staff report addressing her concern about market functioning.  My guess is she is leaning towards additional accommodation.