Two top Federal Reserve officials on Friday warned that the U.S. central bank's latest policy actions risk straying into fiscal territory, and raised questions about the decision to tie monetary policy to specific economic guideposts.
"I do not believe that tying the federal funds rate to a specific numerical threshold for unemployment is an appropriate and balanced approach to the FOMC's price stability and maximum employment mandates," Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker said in a statement, referring to the Fed's policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee.
Lacker was the lone dissenting voter on the Fed's decision Wednesday to vow to keep interest rates low as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent, provided that inflation does not rise above 2.5 percent.
The Fed also decided to maintain its monthly asset purchases of $45 billion of Treasury bonds and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities until it saw a substantial improvement in the outlook for the U.S. labor market. The move will add to the Fed's already swollen balance sheet.
Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, who does not have a vote on the policy-setting panel until 2014, also said he argued against the policies.
"I argued that basically we were at risk of what I call a 'Hotel California' monetary policy," Fisher said in an interview with CNBC, referring to an Eagles song about a hotel from which one can never leave. "Theoretically we can check out any time we want from this program, but practically, since we're going to have an engorged balance sheet, we may never be able to leave this position."
Fisher said he was also concerned about the Fed's new approach of setting thresholds for its policy, particularly about sending possible confusing messages to the public.
"I'm a little bit worried we are getting tangled up in our own knickers here," he said, of the Fed's new communications efforts.
Both Fisher and Lacker worried the Fed's new policies strayed into fiscal territory, which is the purview of Congress.
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