September 20, 2018

Fed Officials Discussed Early End of Easing

Federal Reserve policy makers, at their most recent meeting, discussed moving slightly earlier than expected to scale back their efforts to encourage growth if the economy continued to rebound, according to minutes released Wednesday.

Wall Street rallied after the release of the minutes, which came five hours ahead of schedule because a Fed official had mistakenly e-mailed them Tuesday afternoon to a host of legislative staff members and bank representatives. The disclosure raised eyebrows both in Washington and on Wall Street, but the Fed said there was no evidence that recipients had profited through the early release by trading on the information.

The e-mails went to lobbyists and government relations officials at the banks, rather than to traders, but the wide distribution underscored the magnitude of the Fed’s mistake.

While experts interpreted the debate within the Fed as pointing to the possibility of a somewhat less expansive monetary policy later this year, they were quick to note that the meeting took place before last Friday’s report on unemployment and job creation in March, which was much weaker than expected.

Since last year, the Fed has been expanding its holdings by $85 billion a month in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities in an effort to keep long-term interest rates ultralow and spur economic growth.

The early release of the minutes, at 9 a.m. Eastern time, came after officials realized they had mistakenly been distributed to more than 100 Congressional staff members and trade association officials. It was especially embarrassing for the Fed because the e-mail also went to employees at a Who’s Who of Wall Street firms, including Goldman Sachs, Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, UBS, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, and HSBC.

Fed officials discovered the error at about 6:30 am Wednesday, and immediately briefed Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman. An official for the Fed insisted the error was discovered internally, not because of trading anomalies or because one of the recipients had alerted regulators. The minutes are closely watched by traders and investors for any clue about Fed policy, making them among the most market-sensitive documents the government releases. Participants in the multitrillion-dollar bond market follow the zigs and zags of the Fed especially intently, since even a small move in rates can move bond prices sharply.

“The reason is they were inadvertently sent early to a list of individuals who normally receive the minutes by e-mail shortly after their usual release time,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement. The error was traced to the Fed’s Congressional liaison office and a mistake there by an employee, Brian Gross, who has worked at the Fed for a decade.

“This was human error,” said one Fed official who insisted on anonymity.

Still, the Federal Reserve’s inspector general was asked to review release procedures in light of the incident. The Fed also said it alerted the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Until the most recent report on unemployment, there were signs the labor market was picking up steam, a crucial criterion in helping Fed policy makers decide when to scale back the bond purchases.

Since Friday’s report, however, worries have returned that slow levels of job creation will keep unemployment at elevated levels. The jobless rate was 7.6 percent in March, much higher than normal for this stage of a recovery. And the economy, according to the initial Labor Department report, created only 88,000 jobs in March, a far cry from the 268,000 jobs added in February.

“They were seeing a different world than they’re seeing today,” said Michael Hanson, senior United States economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Besides the weak jobs figures, recent data for manufacturing has been soft, while consumer confidence remains mixed.

The meeting, held on March 19 and 20, came after a series of more positive indicators in January and February, Mr. Hanson said.

The Federal Reserve has said it plans to continue the stimulus efforts until there is “substantial improvement” in the labor market outlook.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/11/business/economy/fed-officials-split-over-end-of-easing.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Sports Illustrated Lands New Armstrong Interview

4:17 p.m. | Updated Lance Armstrong thought about bypassing the media and making a confessional video for the Web that would have detailed his substance abuse and included an apology to his fans. But instead he sat down with Oprah Winfrey, and he doesn’t regret the choice, Mr. Armstrong told a writer for Sports Illustrated in a column that was published online on Tuesday.

Mr. Armstrong spoke to the writer, Michael McCann, at length last month, but only on the condition that he not be quoted directly. Mr. McCann, a sports law expert, is a part-time legal analyst and writer for the magazine and its Web site.

His column is a summation of his conversation with Mr. Armstrong, including the fact that Mr. Armstrong almost sat down with Tom Brokaw, the former “NBC Nightly News” anchor, instead of Ms. Winfrey. Mr. Brokaw is now a special correspondent for NBC News.

“He had also weighed the possibility of producing a four- to five-minute video that would have been available on his official Web site, as well as YouTube, Facebook and other sites,” Mr. McCann wrote. The video would have allowed Mr. Armstrong to look straight into the camera and apologize — and would have allowed him to avoid Ms. Winfrey’s questions.

“Ultimately he concluded that a conversation would be a more natural vehicle than a scripted speech, and the choice was between Winfrey and Brokaw,” Mr. McCann added.

Sports Illustrated billed the interview as Mr. Armstrong’s second, since Ms. Winfrey’s interview was televised six weeks ago. It came about rather serendipitously, after Mr. McCann noticed that Mr. Armstrong had started following him on Twitter. Mr. McCann struck up a conversation with Mr. Armstrong via Twitter’s direct message feature, and eventually suggested that the two men meet. Mr. Armstrong invited him to his home in Austin, Tex.

The ensuing meeting took place on Feb. 27. There were no restrictions placed on it, other than the no-direct-quotations rule. Mr. McCann said Mr. Armstrong “displayed a range of emotions, from conviction to sorrow.”

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/05/sports-illustrated-lands-new-armstrong-interview/?partner=rss&emc=rss