FOMC puts policy on hold, will provide additional accommodation as needed2 August, 2012, 2:17. Posted by Zarathustra
The Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) decides to put policy on hold.
The Federal Reserve maintains the language of “exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014”, and will continue with the extension of operation twist as planned in the previous meeting.
Also, “the Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability”
This was a bit of a surprise, as we expected an extension of the zero-rate guidance through to 2015. The next hint of Fed policy easing will be the next Jackson Hole Meeting.
Despite policy inaction today, some more positive interpretations of the statement has been suggested. For instance, this is Goldman’s take:
Our interpretation of the forward-looking language in today’s statement – especially the phrase “will provide additional accommodation as needed” – is that some form of monetary easing at the September 12-13 FOMC meeting is the current baseline. Although easing is by no means a foregone conclusion, we suspect that the incoming information needs to improve materially in order to forestall it. Under our own forecast of a only a slight improvement in output and employment growth, we believe a small easing step – most plausibly a lengthening of the forward rate guidance – is the most likely outcome for September 13, with asset purchases financed by renewed balance sheet expansion following in late 2012/early 2013.
Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June suggests that economic activity decelerated somewhat over the first half of this year. Growth in employment has been slow in recent months, and the unemployment rate remains elevated. Business fixed investment has continued to advance. Household spending has been rising at a somewhat slower pace than earlier in the year. Despite some further signs of improvement, the housing sector remains depressed. Inflation has declined since earlier this year, mainly reflecting lower prices of crude oil and gasoline, and longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.
Consistent with its statutory mandate, the Committee seeks to foster maximum employment and price stability. The Committee expects economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up very gradually. Consequently, the Committee anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only slowly toward levels that it judges to be consistent with its dual mandate. Furthermore, strains in global financial markets continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee anticipates that inflation over the medium term will run at or below the rate that it judges most consistent with its dual mandate.
To support a stronger economic recovery and to help ensure that inflation, over time, is at the rate most consistent with its dual mandate, the Committee expects to maintain a highly accommodative stance for monetary policy. In particular, the Committee decided today to keep the target range for the federal funds rate at 0 to 1/4 percent and currently anticipates that economic conditions–including low rates of resource utilization and a subdued outlook for inflation over the medium run–are likely to warrant exceptionally low levels for the federal funds rate at least through late 2014.
The Committee also decided to continue through the end of the year its program to extend the average maturity of its holdings of securities as announced in June, and it is maintaining its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments from its holdings of agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities in agency mortgage-backed securities. The Committee will closely monitor incoming information on economic and financial developments and will provide additional accommodation as needed to promote a stronger economic recovery and sustained improvement in labor market conditions in a context of price stability.
Voting for the FOMC monetary policy action were: Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman; William C. Dudley, Vice Chairman; Elizabeth A. Duke; Dennis P. Lockhart; Sandra Pianalto; Jerome H. Powell; Sarah Bloom Raskin; Jeremy C. Stein; Daniel K. Tarullo; John C. Williams; and Janet L. Yellen. Voting against the action was Jeffrey M. Lacker, who preferred to omit the description of the time period over which economic conditions are likely to warrant an exceptionally low level of the federal funds rate.