Will the Fed be able to control deficits, interest rates AND inflation?
*Bloomberg, by Rich Miller & Michael McKee, June 22, 2009
“Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has to convince investors the Federal Reserve can take back more than $1 trillion it pumped into the U.S. banking system to pull the economy out of the longest decline in more than six decades.
Bernanke and his colleagues, who meet June 23 and 24 to map monetary strategy, have said they need to continue buying assets and keep interest rates low for a long time to help revive growth. Rising Treasury bond yields show Wall Street is concerned their policy may lead to an inflationary bubble: Ten- year notes reached an eight-month high of 3.95 percent June 10.
‘The markets don’t understand the Fed’s exit strategy; they’re confused,’ said Lyle Gramley, a senior economic adviser with New York-based Soleil Securities Corp. and former central- bank governor. ‘That’s contributed to the rise in long-term rates.’
The risk is that higher rates will hold back the budding economic recovery by lifting borrowing costs for homeowners and buyers. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast growth of 0.5 percent in the third quarter after gross domestic product shrank for four consecutive quarters — the first time that’s happened since 1947.”
“While investor optimism about the economy may be contributing to higher yields, there are still worries about the record $1.8 trillion budget deficit, along with the concern about the Fed’s plans, Gramley said.
In an effort to contain borrowing costs, Fed officials are considering using the policy statement issued after this week’s meeting to try to suppress any speculation they’re prepared to boost interest rates as soon as this year.
If policy makers are going to restrain rates, investors and analysts say they should explain how they will cut the central bank’s balance sheet and prevent inflation from accelerating.”
“In the U.S., concern is growing that consumer-price inflation will accelerate, based on trading in Treasury Inflation Protected Securities. Expectations for 2015 to 2019 — the so-called five-year, five-year-forward rate calculated by the Fed — increased June 2 to 3.18 percent, the highest since November, before sliding to 2.79 percent on June 17. The average since 2005 is 2.66 percent.
Behind investor unease is a $1.2 trillion jump to $2.07 trillion during the past year in the portfolio of mortgage, Treasury and other securities the Fed owns, as it flooded the banking system with reserves. The balance sheet rose to a record $2.31 trillion in December and has fallen since as the financial crisis eased and banks’ demand for short-term credit ebbed.”
“Meanwhile, the Fed is adding to its holdings of long-term securities, pledging to buy this year as much as $1.25 trillion of mortgage securities, $200 billion of agency debt and $300 billion of long-term Treasuries.
The purchases have come as the government embarked on a $787 billion stimulus program to boost the economy. Bernanke, 55, denied on June 3 that the Fed was helping to fund the deficit by buying Treasuries.
Anxiety over the Fed’s pump-priming program is twofold, according to Robert Eisenbeis, chief monetary economist at Cumberland Advisors in Vineland, New Jersey. The first worry is the central bank lacks the tools to unwind its monetary stimulus quickly enough. The second is that even if it can act in time, it won’t because of political opposition to tightening credit when unemployment is 9.4 percent, a 25-year peak.”
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