June 25, 2024

Economix: How Bernanke Answered Your Questions

Open Market
In the Chicago trading pits during the news conference.Frank Polich/Reuters In the Chicago trading pits during the news conference.

Before Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, took questions from the media Wednesday, I took questions from you. I got to ask only one question at the news conference — I asked why the Fed was not doing more to reduce unemployment — but many of your other questions were also answered in some form by Mr. Bernanke.

Here are some of your questions, and the answers that he gave. (A video of the briefing is available on the Fed’s Web site.)

Q. Since both housing and unemployment have not recovered sufficiently, why are you not instantly embarking on QE3? — Michael A. Kamperman, Waco, Tex.

Mr. Bernanke: “Going forward, we’ll have to continue to make judgments about whether additional steps are warranted, but as we do so, we have to keep in mind that we do have a dual mandate, that we do have to worry about both the rate of growth but also the inflation rate…

“The trade-offs are getting — are getting less attractive at this point. Inflation has gotten higher. Inflation expectations are a bit higher. It’s not clear that we can get substantial improvements in payrolls without some additional inflation risk. And in my view, if we’re going to have success in creating a long-run, sustainable recovery with lots of job growth, we’ve got to keep inflation under control. So we’ve got to look at both of those — both parts of the mandate as we — as we choose policy.”

Q. The stated mission of the Fed is to “conduct the nation’s monetary policy by influencing the monetary and credit conditions in the economy in pursuit of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.” Is there a hierarchy in that list? If not, how would the chairman explain the lack of more stimulative activity with such high underemployment in the face of persistent low inflation? — Josh, Boston

Mr. Bernanke: “I think that even purely from an employment perspective, that if inflation were to become unmoored and inflation expectations were to rise significantly, that the cost of that in terms of employment loss in the future, as we had to respond to that, would be quite significant.”

Q. Long rates have risen since the announcement of QE2 and the continuation of the Fed’s zero interest rate policy. The steeper yield curve has seemed to inhibit real economic activity, while stimulating speculative action in stocks and commodities. Have the policy actions of the Fed backfired? — Tom Brakke, Excelsior, Minn.

Mr. Bernanke: “Well, first, I do believe that the second round of securities purchases was effective. We saw that first in the financial markets. The way monetary policy always works is by easing financial conditions. And we saw increases in stock prices. We saw reduced spreads in credit markets. We saw reduced volatility …

“You would expect, based on decades of experience, that easing financial conditions would lead to better economic conditions. And I think the evidence is consistent with that as well…

“Now the conclusion therefore that the second round of securities purchases was ineffective could only be validated if one thought that this step was a panacea, that is was going to solve all the problems and return us to full employment overnight. We were very clear from the beginning that — while we thought this was an important step and that it was at an important time when we were all worried about a double dip and we were worried about deflation, we were very clear that this was not going to be a panacea, that it was only going to turn the economy in the right direction.”

Q. When can we expect to see a rise in interest rates? — SMM, Monterey, Calif.

Mr. Bernanke: “I don’t know exactly how long it will be before a tightening process begins… ‘Extended period’ suggests that there would be a couple of meetings probably before action. But unfortunately the reason we use this vaguer terminology is that we don’t know with certainty how quickly response will be required and, therefore, we will do our best to communicate changes, in our view, as — but that will depend entirely on how the economy evolves.”

Q. Why the Fed has evidently failed in restraining the inflationary trend in the economy? If the Fed has any policy to protect senior citizens on fixed income from continuing rising prices of food, gas, energy and services, etc.? — Daniel Farooq, Streamwood, Ill.

Mr. Bernanke: “There’s not much that the Federal Reserve can do about gas prices per se, at least not without derailing growth entirely, which is certainly not the right way to go. After all, the Fed can’t create more oil. We don’t control the growth rates of emerging market economies. What we can do is basically try to keep higher gas prices from passing into other prices and wages throughout the economy and creating a broader inflation, which would be much more difficult to extinguish.

“Again, our view is that most likely — and of course we don’t know for sure, but we’ll be watching it carefully — our view is that gas prices will not continue to rise at the recent pace, and as they stabilize or even come down, if the situation stabilizes in the Middle East, that that will provide some relief on the inflation front.”

Q. The dollar has been steadily losing its value, vis-a-vis other currencies. In your estimation, is this trend beneficial to the U.S. economy? — AM, New York

Mr. Bernanke: “We do believe that a strong and stable dollar is in the interest of the United States and is in the interest of the global economy. Our view is that the best thing we can do for the dollar is first to keep the purchasing power of the dollar strong by keeping inflation low and by creating a stronger economy through policies which support the recovery, and therefore cause more capital inflows to the United States.”

Q. How could the Federal Reserve be more transparent with their decisions that affect the economy? — Nicolas Tanguay-Leduc, Ottawa

Mr. Bernanke: “Well, the Federal Reserve has been looking for ways to increase its transparency now for many years, and we’ve made a lot of progress. It used to be that the mystique of central banking was all about not letting anybody know what you were doing. As recently as 1994, the Federal Reserve didn’t even tell the public when it changed the target for the federal funds rate.

“Since then, we have taken a number of steps… We now provide quarterly projections, including long-run objectives, as well as near-term outlook. We have substantial means of communicating through speeches, testimony and the like. And so we have become, I think, a very — a very transparent central bank. That being said, we had a subcommittee headed by the vice chair of the board, Janet Yellin, looking for yet additional steps to take to provide additional transparency.”

“We’re not — we’re not done. We’re continuing to look for additional things that we can do to be more transparent and more accountable. But we think this is the right way to go.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fa0cde9d3c60660afd12890524b28f0b

Speak Your Mind