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Redacted Version of the March 2012 FOMC Statement

January 2012March 2012Comments
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately, notwithstanding some slowing in global growth.Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in January suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately.

 

No real change, deletes comment about slowing global growth, which is still slowing.
While indicators point to some further improvement in overall labor market conditions, the unemployment rate remains elevated.Labor market conditions have improved further; the unemployment rate has declined notably in recent months but remains elevated.The unemployment rate is down, but few jobs are being created, and people are dropping out of the labor force.  The improvement isn’t that large.
Household spending has continued to advance, but growth in business fixed investment has slowed, and the housing sector remains depressed.Household spending and business fixed investment have continued to advance. The housing sector remains depressed.Shades up their view on business investment.
Inflation has been subdued in recent months, and longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.Inflation has been subdued in recent months, although prices of crude oil and gasoline have increased lately. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.True for the last few months for goods & services prices, but past isn’t prologue.  TIPS are showing higher inflation expectations.
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability.No change.  Mentions of the statutory mandate are always meant to hide the distasteful aspects of what they do.
The Committee expects economic growth over coming quarters to be modest and consequently anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually toward levels that the Committee judges to be consistent with its dual mandate.The Committee expects moderate economic growth over coming quarters and consequently anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline gradually toward levels that the Committee judges to be consistent with its dual mandate.No change.
Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.Strains in global financial markets have eased, though they continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.No real change.  The strains in Spain fall mainly on the plain banks.
The Committee also anticipates that over coming quarters, inflation will run at levels at or below those consistent with the Committee’s dual mandate.The recent increase in oil and gasoline prices will push up inflation temporarily, but the Committee anticipates that subsequently inflation will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate.Adds language noting the rise in energy prices, but don’t worry, because monetary policy will fix that.
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at levels consistent with the dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy.To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy.No change.
In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.No change.
The Committee also decided to continue its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in September. The Committee is maintaining its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.The Committee also decided to continue its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in September. The Committee is maintaining its existing policies of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities and of rolling over maturing Treasury securities at auction. The Committee will regularly review the size and composition of its securities holdings and is prepared to adjust those holdings as appropriate to promote a stronger economic recovery in a context of price stability.No change.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen.Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen.No change for the Apostles of Central Bank unorthodox asset management policies.
Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who preferred to omit the description of the time period over which economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate.Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who does not anticipate that economic conditions are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels of the federal funds rate through late 2014.No real change.  Nice for there to be some dissent.

 

Comments

  • No significant changes from last time.  They do note that energy prices are rising, but they don’t see that affecting inflation.
  • In my opinion, I don’t think holding down longer-term rates on the highest-quality debt will have any impact on lower quality debts, which is where most of the economy finances itself.
  • Also, the reinvestment in Agency MBS should have limited impact because so many owners are inverted, or ineligible for financing backed by the GSEs, and implicitly the government, even with the recently announced refinancing changes.
  • The key variables on Fed Policy are capacity utilization, unemployment, inflation trends, and inflation expectations.  As a result, the FOMC ain’t moving rates up, absent increases in employment, or a US Dollar crisis.  Labor employment is the key metric.
  • The Fed is out of good policy tools, so it will use bad policy tools instead, and for longer than before.
  • Do they want the yield on 30 year TIPS to go negative?  Looks that way.
  • GDP growth is not improving much if at all, and the unemployment rate improvement comes more from discouraged workers.  Inflation has moderated, but whether it will stay that way is another question.

Questions for Dr. Bernanke:

  • Is it possible that you don’t really know what would have worked to solve the Great Depression, and you are just committing an entirely new error that will result in a larger problem for us later?
  • Why do think extending the period of accommodation by a little more than a year will have any significant effect on the economy, aside from stock and bond prices?
  • Discouraged workers are a large factor in the falling unemployment rate. Why do you think the economy is doing well?
  • Couldn’t increased unemployment be structural, after all, there is a lot more competition from labor in emerging markets?
  • Why do you think that holding down longer-term rates on the highest-quality debt will have any impact on lower quality debts, which is where most of the economy finances itself?
  • Why will reinvestment in Agency MBS help the economy significantly?  Doesn’t that only help solvent borrowers on the low end of housing, who don’t really need the help?
  • Isn’t stagflation a possibility here?  I mean, no one expected it in the ‘70s either.
  • Could we end up with another debt bubble from keeping short rates so low?
  • If the Fed ever does shrink its balance sheet, what effect will it have on the banks?





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5 Responses to Redacted Version of the March 2012 FOMC Statement

  1. John says:

    President Lacker’s dissent looks a tiny bit stronger this time. After the January meeting he explained his vote by saying exceptionally low rates weren’t likely to be warranted through late 2014. But in contrast to the press release from the Richmond Fed, the Jan. FOMC statement left open whether he objected to so long a period of accommodation or only to the pre-announcement thereof. I’ll be interested to see if he calls for a rate increase before the year is out.

  2. [...] the Fed statement changed.  (Aleph Blog, Real Time [...]

  3. Pacioli says:

    The obsession with the Fed and its policies as a major factor contributing to a lack of economic recovery is confounding.

    The Fed is simply doing whatever it can. But Fed policy alone will never be enough to appreciably offset the level of private sector debt deflation that must occur. That is a matter of fiscal policy.

  4. scm0330 says:

    David,

    Long time reader and lurker. Your comments above sound, overall, bearish. The consensus seems to be an economy that, at long last, has escape velocity. Jobs, housing, car sales all on the uptick. I’m not talking simply the relentless tempo of cnbc, but the next — and possible more substantive — layer “down.” You seem to have a different tint. Thoughts?

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