Redacted Version of the April 2012 FOMC Statement

March 2012April 2012Comments
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in January suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately.Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in March suggests that the economy has been expanding moderately.No real change.
Labor market conditions have improved further; the unemployment rate has declined notably in recent months but remains elevated.Labor market conditions have improved in recent months; the unemployment rate has declined but remains elevated.No real change.  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 and business fixed investment have continued to advance. The housing sector remains depressed.Household spending and business fixed investment have continued to advance. Despite some signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed.

 

Shades up their view on the housing sector.   I would be more cautious.
Inflation has been subdued in recent months, although prices of crude oil and gasoline have increased lately. Longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.Inflation has picked up somewhat, mainly reflecting higher prices of crude oil and gasoline. However, longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.Shades up their view of inflation, finally.  TIPS are showing higher inflation expectations since the start of the year. (5y forward 5y inflation implied from TIPS.)
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 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.The Committee expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually. Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline gradually toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate.Shades up its views of future GDP growth.
Strains in global financial markets have eased, though they continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.Strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook.Shades up its view of risks from global financial markets.
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.The increase in oil and gasoline prices earlier this year is expected to affect inflation only temporarily, and the Committee anticipates that subsequently inflation will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate.No real change.
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.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.
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.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 change.  Thank you, Mr. Lacker.

 

Comments

  • No significant changes from last time.  They shaded up their views on housing, inflation, and global financial risk.  That’s all.
  • 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?

2 Comments

  • Pacioli says:

    I continue to be utterly confounded by the apparent obsession with the Fed and its policies as a major factor contributing to a lack of economic recovery (at least as indicated by the ‘Questions for Dr. Bernanke’ section of the post).

    In particular, this statement is laughable:
    “No change. Mentions of the statutory mandate are always meant to hide the distasteful aspects of what they do.”

    What actions of the Fed do you deem to be inconsistent with the mandate?

    If you don’t deem the Fed to be afoul of the mandate, then that implies you have a problem with the mandate itself. In that case, it is Congress (whose Act) you need to complain about – not the Fed.

    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.

  • jobo says:

    Another Fed watcher….. I thought CNBC did this for the clueless already. What is the obsession with the FED??

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