Dallas Fed Chief: QE Has Only Made 'Rich People Richer'

Monday, 20 May 2013 07:47 AM

 

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While the Federal Reserve's accommodative policies have boosted stocks and helped the rich, it is unclear whether they are doing enough for the broader U.S. economy, a top central bank official said on Monday.

"We've made rich people richer...," Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said on CNBC television. "The question is what have we done for working men and women in America?" he asked.

"But has it worked in the economy? ... We don't know," he said.

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

The central bank is buying $45 billion in Treasury bonds and $40 billion in mortgage bonds each month in an effort to encourage investment, hiring and economic growth in part because the unemployment rate remains high at 7.5 percent.

Fisher, who opposed the current program and doesn’t vote on monetary policy this year, has been among the Fed officials urging a slowing of asset purchases, or quantitative easing (QE). The benchmark S&P 500 stock index has risen some 16 percent since the so-called QE program was launched in September 2012.

"In the end, who patrols the purse strings? The Congress of the United States. They have done a bad job," Fisher said, adding he wasn't targeting either political party. "I'm an equal opportunity basher."

He warned that the U.S. central bank shouldn't abruptly go from "wild turkey" monetary policy to "cold turkey." He said that timing is crucial because a sudden end of easing could be "too violent for the market."

"I am not saying cut it off. We don't want to go from wild turkey to cold turkey overnight. That is the nature of the discussion right now," Fisher said.

“The odds are in favor, right now as I see it, of dialing this back a little bit or keeping it at its current pace,” Fisher said. “I’m in favor of dialing it back,” he said.

“We’ve flooded the market with liquidity, but the boats are still tied to the dock by fiscal policy,” he said. “You can raise the tide, but if you’re still tied to the dock, you don’t leave. We have not seen the kind of robust job creation we would like to see.”

He said the housing market doesn't need Fed support any more. "That market is on its way," he said.

Fisher also said he believes economists are underestimating the strength of the recovery, declaring a better than even chance that U.S. gross domestic product will grow more quickly this year than the 2.4 percent economists currently expect. "I think we’ll see things picking up as we go through the year.”

Fisher's hawkish views have in the past few years been largely ignored by Bernanke and the majority of Fed policymakers, but investors are now anxiously predicting when the bond-buying will be reduced.

Fisher warned that the Fed could be buying all of the gross issuance of mortgage backed securities if it keeps up the current pace. "We have to think about our fiduciary duty long term," he said.

Noting there are other Fed officials who agree with him, Fisher, who does not have a vote on policy this year, highlighted comments last week by centrist San Francisco Fed President John Williams who said the central bank could trim its purchases this summer.

"I think the odds are in favor ... of dialing this back a little bit or keeping it at its current pace," as opposed to increasing the purchases, he said.

The Fed has a policy meeting set for June 18-19.

Asked who might succeed Bernanke when the chairman's term expires early next year, Fisher said: "I personally would like to see Ben stay. I think he is extraordinary and has progressed enormously on the job."

Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen "is extremely capable, there are other capable people," he said. "I can tell you one thing for certain: it won't be me."

Editor's Note: Economist Unapologetically Calls Out Bernanke, Obama for Mishandling Economy. See What They Did

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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