Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fed's Dudley: "Lessons at the Zero Bound: The Japanese and U.S. Experience"

by Calculated Risk on 5/21/2013 03:25:00 PM

As president of the NY Fed, William Dudley is a key member of the FOMC. He clearly supports QE ...

From NY Fed President William Dudley: Lessons at the Zero Bound: The Japanese and U.S. Experience. A few excerpts:

In terms of our asset purchase program, I believe we should be prepared to adjust the total amount of purchases to that needed to deliver a substantial improvement in the labor market outlook in the context of price stability. In doing this, we might adjust the pace of purchases up or down as the labor market and inflation outlook changes in a material way. For me, the base case forecast is not the sole consideration—how confident we are about that outcome is also important.

Because the outlook is uncertain, I cannot be sure which way—up or down—the next change will be. But at some point, I expect to see sufficient evidence to make me more confident about the prospect for substantial improvement in the labor market outlook. At that time, in my view, it will be appropriate to reduce the pace at which we are adding accommodation through asset purchases. Over the coming months, how well the economy fights its way through the significant fiscal drag currently in force will be an important aspect of this judgment.
This is a reminder that the next change in asset purchases could be either to buy more or less per month depending on the economy.  Note: Earlier in this speech Dudley noted that "complementary fiscal" policy is important, but of course fiscal policy is currently not "complementary" - and is a significant drag.

And on the eventual exit strategy:
We are also learning about how best to prepare for the eventual normalization of monetary policy. For example, we may need to update our thinking with respect to the so-called exit principles that we published in June 2011 in order to bring them up to date with developments since then, and ensure they do not unnecessarily constrain our ability to conduct policy in the most effective way today.

Those exit principles stated that we would first stop reinvesting, then raise short-term interest rates, and finally sell agency mortgage backed securities over a three-to-five year period. This seems stale in several respects. In particular, how does one time the end of reinvestment given that we now have economic thresholds that govern the timing of liftoff? Also, the thresholds are thresholds, not triggers. Thus it is hard to link the timing of the end of reinvestment to the unknown liftoff date for short-term rates.

More broadly, it may be desirable to update our thinking around the path and composition of the balance sheet over time, in light of our capacity to shape this path in a way that mitigates potential costs and risks. For example, the agency MBS portfolio is substantially larger today than it was when the original exit principles were devised. To the extent that the Committee wants to reduce the risk of disrupting market functioning during normalization, it could decide to indicate that it will avoid selling the MBS portfolio during the early stages of the normalization process. Moreover, to the extent that the Committee wants to mitigate the risk of a sharp increase in long-term rates, it could judge that it would prefer not to commit to agency MBS sales. Expectations about future MBS sales or actual sales have the potential to generate or amplify such an upward spike in long-term rates. If the Committee believes that it could be costly in terms of credibility to incur a period of no remittances to Treasury—a notion I am personally somewhat skeptical about—avoiding MBS sales would also reduce this risk. Indeed, the Committee might conclude that it was better on all three counts to allow the agency MBS securities to run off passively over time.
Allowing the MBS to run off would be a significant change to the exit strategy.