Tags: Fed | Lockhart | Asset | Purchases

Fed's Lockhart: Continue Asset Purchases into Second Half

Monday, 25 Feb 2013 07:28 PM


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Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Dennis Lockhart said he wants to continue central bank asset purchases at least into the second half of the year to help bring about an improved job market.

“Considering current labor market conditions, I think continuing the asset purchase program to support the recovery and to improve employment conditions remains appropriate for now,” Lockhart said Monday in prepared remarks in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Given the outlook and associated risks, I am comfortable with sticking with the current approach at least into the second half of the year.”

Lockhart supported the Federal Open Market Committee on Jan. 30 to continue $85 billion in monthly bond buying. Several participants “emphasized that the committee should be prepared to vary the pace of asset purchases” in reaction to changes in the economic outlook, according to meeting minutes released last week.

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

“I do not think that monetary policy has yet crossed the line where the benefits of the current policy — specifically the quantitative easing element — are swamped by serious concerns over problems the policy might be creating for the longer term,” Lockhart said, while not directly addressing the question of slowing purchases in his text.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard has proposed varying monthly purchases, an idea also endorsed by Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher. The central bank, seeking to stoke growth and bring down 7.9 percent unemployment, has expanded its balance sheet to a record exceeding $3 trillion.

Housing, Autos

The U.S. economy is likely to grow about 2 percent in the first quarter and 2 percent and 2.5 percent this year, supported by a recovery in housing and strength in the auto industry, Lockhart said. While the risks from the European debt crisis have decreased in recent months, fiscal tightening in the U.S. continues to be a concern, he said.

“This pace of growth implies steady, but not accelerating, net job creation,” Lockhart said. “At this pace of expansion, unemployment will likely continue to decline gradually.”

One positive is that leading indicators for the employment market seem to be picking up, he said.

Inflation has been running below the Fed’s goal of 2 percent and sometimes approaching 1 percent, the Atlanta Fed chief said.

“To significantly and persistently undershoot the central bank’s inflation target could be worrisome in some circumstances, but, at this point, I think the inflation outlook is benign,” he said.

Inflation Target

The Fed last month said inflation has been “somewhat below” its long-run target of 2 percent. An index of inflation tied to spending patterns rose 1.3 percent in the year ended in December.

The FOMC decision last month came after the economy shrank 0.1 percent during the fourth quarter. The Fed in December 2008 cut the main interest rate close to zero to bring down borrowing costs and fuel economic growth.

Lockhart, who has never dissented from an FOMC decision, doesn’t vote on the policy-making body this year. A former Georgetown University professor, Lockhart has led the Atlanta Fed since 2007. The Atlanta Fed district includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

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

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